The Saucon Rail Trail Advisory Committee met at Lower Saucon Town Hall Aug. 22 to discuss a variety of matters, including the possibility of working with the Saucon Valley Farmers Market to offer a Rail Trail Hay Ride before Halloween.
The committee is also looking into producing a bike-friendly and pet-friendly map, in partnership with the Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber of Commerce. Local businesses would pay to be listed on the map, which would be specific to Hellertown and, the committee hopes, help drive rail trail traffic and sales to businesses in town.
Township Manager Jack Cahalan announced that Lower Saucon is now allowing the public and local businesses to purchase memorial benches for placement along the township's portion of the rail trail.
The benches will cost $995 and will be green, so as to keep the trail looking natural. Cahalan said the benches that will be purchased have been approved by township council, and interested parties can contact the township for more details. He also pointed out that “one of the things we realized with these benches is that there is the potential to beautify the area around the benches as well.”
Landscaping and maintenance of the trail is something the committee is now researching.
Bob Yeager of Lower Saucon attended the meeting and offered his services in that regard to the committee.
"I'm a part-time worker at Saucon Valley Country Club," he said. "I have equipment. I have whatever you need to maintain that trail."
Yeager added that he thinks volunteers should maintain the trail rather than paid professionals at taxpayer expense.
"I prune for professionals and I'd like to volunteer," he said. "I have five years of experience doing tree work. There's nothing on the trail I can't handle."
Committee member Roger Jurczak of Lower Saucon brought up the idea of adding historic markers along the trail once the installation of mile markers is completed. Each borough once had a train station when the rail line was active, and those might be good historical sites to mark, he said. Hellertown’s train station was torn down in the 1980s, but it is possible that some rail-related structures are still standing in the other three municipalities, including Lower Saucon, Upper Saucon and Coopersburg.
Committee members also discussed the fact that the South Bethlehem Greenway is now open in Bethlehem. Additional funding is being sought to extend the Greenway south to Saucon Park, and committee members expressed optimism that the Greenway and the Saucon Rail Trail will one day be linked.
“What has been developed [of the Greenway] is really nice, and being able to connect [to] that would be very impressive,” said committee member Frank Pazzaglia.
Susan Katz, a Lower Saucon Township resident who attended the meeting, wanted to know more about how the rail trail advisory committee plans to interface with local government bodies.
"What is the impact of the various councils?" she asked. "Are committee reps going to each meeting? How does that work?"
Upper Saucon Township Manager Tom Beil said the answer to those questions will ultimately hinge on the adoption of a multimunicipal rail trail agreement by Hellertown, Lower Saucon, Upper Saucon and Coopersburg councils. Hellertown Borough Council unanimously adopted the agreement at its last meeting.
"If the intermunicipality agreement is adopted by all, then each one gets two representatives and they go back to their community and communicate with the governing body they represent, but it is ultimately up to the governing body to approve any major financial changes/improvements," Beil said.
Cahalan said that once the agreement takes effect, it will be made available on the Lower Saucon Township website.
The next Saucon Rail Trail Advisory Committee meeting will be held Sept. 26 at 5pm in Hellertown Borough Hall.