Hikers of both the serious and casual variety have a new online resource to help them plan their adventures — just in time for National Trails Day on Saturday.
Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails, in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, has developed hikelebanonpa.org, a website which links to the websites of other local hiking spots, providing a one-stop shop for those seeking maps and other information about Lebanon County's hiking trails.
The idea for the website was hatched two years ago at a meeting of local trail stakeholders who met at Memorial Lake in East Hanover Township to discuss ways they could help each other, said LVRT President John Wengert.
"The purpose was to create a resource for trails in general in Lebanon County," Wengert said. "The Appalachian Trail and the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail are sort of the main north-south and east-west long-distance trails in the county. But there are lots of other, shorter or different types of trails which we wanted to include in one place."
In addition to the LVRT and Appalachian Trail Conservancy websites, hikelebanonpa.org links to the websites of Governor Dick in West Cornwall Township, Swatara State Park, South Hills Park in South Lebanon Township and Union Canal Tunnel Park in North Lebanon Township.
And for those who like to mix a little history with their hiking, it also links to Lebanon Valley Conservancy's Heritage Trail, which has maps for walking tours of Lebanon and a dozen other surrounding villages showing architectural and other points of interest.
There are also links to trail clubs, including the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club, Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club and the Susquehanna Area Mountain Bike Association.
The website was built with guidance from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which helped secure a $10,000 grant from the National Park Service, Wengert said. The local match included $2,000 allocated from the Hotel Tax Fund by the Lebanon County commissioners; $1,220 of in-kind work provided by the county's planning and geographical information system departments; and $2,450 of in-kind work by LVRT.
Although it went online about a month ago, the website is still a work in progress. One feature that needs additional work, Wengert said, is the calendar section, which eventually will be populated with scheduled hiking events.
Meanwhile, Wengert said, work on the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail continues. So far it reaches about 15 miles, from the border with Lancaster County near Lawn, where it links with the Conewago Recreation Trail, to the 1300 block of Chestnut Street in Lebanon. But the ultimate goal is to extend it another 18 miles to Swatara State Park.
Recently, a group of volunteers used money left over from Phase 5, which ended in the 1300 block of Chestnut Street, to add wood decking to a bridge crossing there. The job was completed with the help of a group of skilled volunteers, Wengert said.
"We were lucky we had some very experienced volunteers, either from the construction or carpentry trade, to pull this off," he said. "It turned out fantastic. It looks like something you would see in a state park. If we had to bid it out under grant guidelines it would have been a $40,000 project."
The next scheduled project is Phase 9, a 1.7-mile section through Jonestown, that will be the first work on the northern expansion, Wengert said. Bids will be opened soon, and construction should start this summer.
Another trail-improvement project that should begin later this year is at the trailhead in Cornwall, where a contract is expected to be awarded in September, Wengert said. Planning and right-of-way acquisition also continue on other phases of the trail.
©2014 the Lebanon Daily News (Lebanon, Pa.)