New trail system will connect communities in the Poconos
With the Lackawaxen River as the focal point, a group from Wayne County is hoping to connect Honesdale and Hawley.
First by water, then by land.
“I think COVID has changed the outlook of a lot of people and where they want to live, how they want to recreate. And so if you put the infrastructure in place, it will draw people, said Grant Genzlinger, an advocate for the Lackawaxen River Trails project.
The project began through the Wayne Pike Trails & Waterways Alliance. In 2018, the alliance partnered with the Wayne County Commissioners to complete a Trail Feasibility Study. It found a multi-purpose trail connecting the two boroughs is not only possible but also that public support is very strong. The study, completed by Woodland Design Associates, estimates that the project will cost around $10 million to complete.
James Hamill is a Honesdale Borough councilman and member of the group of trail advocates. They meet monthly to discuss the project.
"This area is really ripe for that in the sense that we have a lot of outdoor amenities here," said Hamill. He was standing near the confluence of Dyberry Creek and the river on an unusually warm and sunny January day. It’s where the trail will begin in Honesdale.
The group has already received state funding to create three river access points, the first step in the project. The access in Bingham Park in Hawley is open. This year a second will be created in White Mills off White Mills Road.
A third is planned for what’s known as Industrial Point near that confluence in Honesdale. Part of the project is to demolish an old, blighted and empty EMS building, owned by Wayne County, to make way for parking and river access. The group will also create a fourth access point in the area known as Indian Orchard.
Genzlinger, who is cofounder of The Settlers Inn in Hawley, says having various access points into the river gives people of all skill levels the opportunity to recreate on the Lackawaxen.
"That opens up a much broader range of people who will be able to use the river,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks the river with trout. Paddlers already use the 31-mile waterway whose headwaters are west of Honesdale. It eventually dumps into the Delaware River in Lackawaxen Twp.
Creating river access points will also crack down on people trespassing to get in and out of the Lackawaxen, the advocates say.
"Because there will be signage, there will be places that people will know 'I can go here'," said Molly Rogers, a trail advocate. "It will also be maintained in terms of the rules and regulations of Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officers.”
The river may be around 20-feet away from Route 6 but Rogers said: “It feels like you're a million miles away."
In the feasibility study many people responded that they just want to observe nature, Rogers added.
Interpretive signs are another aspect of the project. The group is putting up informational panels about nature, wildlife and the history along the river.
Developing the hiking and biking trails is the second phase of the project. The group is working on acquiring easements and securing funding. Eventually, they hope the Lackawaxen River Trails will connect to other trails already in the boroughs and beyond.
"This area has a big shortage of land trails that connect to all the towns,” said Hamill.
Creating the trails will bring in economic opportunity that spans communities, he said.
"Not only would this project be able to create for future generations some lasting opportunities to recreate on the river, by the river, to gather with each other. I think it will also provide connectivity between our communities," Hamill said.
For more details on the project, visit lackawaxenrivertrails.org.