New trail plans near final draft

A study outlining the viability of a new trail in the Bellwood-Antis area is nearing its final draft and likely will be presented for adoption in May.

“It is very exciting, and it’s very rewarding,” Township Manager Lucas Martsolf said, reflecting on the multi-year project’s progress.

In late 2016, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources awarded the township a grant to cover a portion of the trail feasibility study’s cost.

The study was performed by Pittsburgh-based Mackin Engineering Co. — a company that also created a comprehensive parks and recreation plan for the township and neighboring Bellwood Borough.

While creating that plan, local residents showed overwhelming interest in the development of trails.

From there, Antis officials began working on a separate project to create an about 2-mile trail that will stretch from a Route 865 overpass in Bellwood to the township’s Becker Road.

The trail is to cross along both wooded and developed land and is estimated to cost about $1,055,000

In late 2016, DCNR awarded the township a $22,500 grant to cover a portion of the $44,500 cost of a trail feasibility study.

Late last week, Martsolf shared a draft of the nearly completed study — an 88-page document that covers topics from the project’s inception to its potential future.

The study, Martsolf said, is viewed as necessary to show potential funding agencies that planning was thorough.

In the meantime, officials have been purchasing hundreds of acres of land along the trail right-of-way, some of which will also be used for conservation purposes.

Last month, Antis supervisors voted to seek $320,000 to cover the cost of land acquired for both trail development and a larger conservation project.

That application included a 1-to-1 commitment by supervisors of another $320,000, Martsolf said.

Supervisors likely will vote whether or not to accept the feasibility study at their next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. May 3.

Township officials also hope to use DCNR and PennDOT grant funds to largely cover costs of both trail engineering and construction.

As of Monday, the township had not been awarded those grant funds. Martsolf said state agencies are likely to announce grant recipients in the coming weeks and months.

Martsolf spoke confidently about the township’s chances to secure funding and thanked state agencies, elected officials and others who have supported the project.

“It went about as smoothly and as quickly as it possibly could,” he said.

Once funding is in place, township officials can move forward with the permitting process.

If all goes according to plan, construction on the trail could begin in 2019. It would be the first of several phases of trail development, Martsolf said.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.