Columbia Borough’s River District is considered the community’s most treasured resource. This is not surprising–since the borough’s incorporation, the river has been the lifeline of the local economy.
In today’s world, the river no longer serves as the primary source of transportation. But the riverfront remains a hub of activity thanks to the hard work and vision of Columbia Borough’s Riverfront Park Committee and financial support from the Keystone Fund.
During a strategic planning process in the early 2000s, borough leaders interviewed stakeholders to determine community needs. They learned that opportunities for recreation and healthy lifestyles were a priority of residents. Recognizing this desire, borough leaders took action by applying for a Keystone grant.
In 2007, the borough received money from the Keystone Fund to complete Phase 1 of the Riverfront Park project. This phase included the expansion of an antiquated boat launch, a new kayak access area to the water trail, parking, an ADA accessible fishing pier, pedestrian walkways, and the installation of rain gardens and landscaping. The 10-acre park reopened on Memorial Day Weekend in 2010 and, even with expanded parking, the facility was filled to capacity.
Phase 2 was also supported by the Keystone Fund, and was completed in 2012. It connected Columbia’s downtown business district to Riverfront Park, incorporating façade and street improvements, ADA access across the existing railroad tracks, and a trail-width sidewalk which connects the park to Lancaster County’s Northwest River Trail. The park serves as the southern trailhead of the Northwest River Trail. In 2013, the borough acquired additional Keystone funding for the construction of the Park and Trail Services Building.
At the beginning of the project, the borough leased a portion of the riverfront park to a new business which offers paddling trips along the river. Since then, the business has grown and welcomed over 1,000 visitors – many who likely would have never visited the Columbia otherwise.
Although Columbia has always been technically on the map, the community is now a destination. Instead of stumbling upon it, visitors seek out its recreational opportunities. These visitors are not just spending their time in the borough–they’re spending their money.