Engineer: Turnpike trail would create 40-55 jobs

BEDFORD — A leading project engineer revealed details Tuesday of a proposed master plan to turn the abandoned Pennsyl­vania Turnpike into a recreational center, including trailheads, educational centers, tunnel art galleries and an outdoor amphitheater.

Craig Bachik, the senior landscape engineer, said at the commissioners’ meeting that the reconstruction of the 8.5-mile Pike2Bike Trail between Bedford and Fulton counties would cost an estimated $5 million. He said the project, once completed, would create 40 to 55 full-time jobs to manage trail activities.

“It’s been a lot of work in progress, but we’re now happy to be in a position to start working toward implementation and to achieve our desired economic outcomes,” Commissioner Josh Lang said of the project.

“It’s not just a trail. It’s a destination, a destination for visitors to come. From biking to events to hiking, you name it,” Lang added. “That’s what we envision for the old Pennsylvania Turnpike — to have different things for the many different people’s interests that are coming to the county.”

Bachik added he anticipates the recreational center to draw 150,000 visitors by 2022 and bring in $368,000 in tax revenue annually.

He said the project could potentially be financed by various foundations and endowments and state grants. He said he expects a five-year payback on the

$5 million investment.

Possible event opportunities for the recreational trails and center include annual running and biking events, a fall festival and a fundraising event, Bachik added.

The Bedford County commissioners gave their approval for Jim Edwards to serve for one year as a Bedford-Fulton Joint Recreation Authority member, Casey College for four years and Nancy Folk for six years. Lang said an organizational meeting for the authority still needs to take place.

The next steps to move the project forward include transferring ownership of the land from the Southern Alleghenies Conservancy to the joint recreation authority and securing funding for the first capital improvement project.

Bedford County Sheriff Charwin Reichelderfer also awarded Chief Deputy Diane Nelson a letter of commendation for her work in the Office of Attorney General’s investigation of William Higgins at Tuesday’s meeting.

“It’s very well deserved,” Reichelderfer said of Nelson’s receipt of commendation letter. “She’s very well thought of in my office. It’s long overdue.” The letter, read by Reichelderfer, said Nelson assisted with the multi-year investigation with due diligence and integrity while working perilously on her daily duties in the sheriff’s office.

He noted Nelson has spent a lot of time and energy helping District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts in rebuilding the county’s drug task force.

The commissioners also approved these hires: Patricia Fleck, Timothy Keel, Jared Diehl and Tierra McFarland as full-time correctional officers; Wayne Purnell as full-time lieutenant at the Bedford County Jail; Karen Edwards as a part-time cook at the jail; and Ryanna McGinnis as data collector in the Tax Assessment office.

Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.