A $37,000 Keystone Fund grant was awarded for preparation of a master site development plan for the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails. When completed, the trail will connect Hazleton with the 180-mile Delaware and Lehigh Trail. The original plan for the trail was a direct result of a study conducted in 1997 by internationally respected pollster John Zogby, which sought community input on how to improve the Greater Hazleton area. From this input, the idea for Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails was developed.
“The Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails is a tremendous asset to the Greater Hazleton Area community and areas outside of the immediate Hazleton Area,” said Donna Palermo, president of the Hazleton Chamber of Commerce. “What was once an abandoned old rail bed for half a century, used for illegal dumping and other activities, is now a hub of activity. The Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails not only restored the environment, but actually enhanced it by planting native season grasses, conserving natural native plants, and by making people award of the environment through interpretive signage.”
The four miles of trails are used by families, dedicated bikers and hikers, school groups, and those seeking to lose weight and improve their health. The trail has also provided an economic boost to the area, since most users spend money at local restaurants, hotels, shops, and more. As the trail grows to link the Eckley Miners Village and Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor to the Greater Hazleton Area, it will spark further economic development in the area.