by Curt Ashenfelter, KTA Executive Director
Spring arrived early to Pennsylvania’s hiking trails this year. It’s an exciting time of the year as we plan upcoming trail adventures, warm up our tired muscles and spy the first wildflowers along our local trails.
At the Keystone Trails Association, we are eager to welcome the new hiking season while we remain mindful of the persistent threats to our hiking trails.
Governor Tom Corbett has recently proposed the largest cut to conservation funding in Pennsylvania’s history by diverting the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (see President’s Message) to general government operations. The Keystone Fund has financed hundreds of miles of hiking trails across the state, and its permanent elimination would be to the detriment of the trail community. I have voiced KTA’s support of the Keystone Fund to the state legislature and ask that you contact your senators and representatives to protect conservation funding in Pennsylvania.
The impact of Marcellus Shale gas development on Pennsylvania’s hiking trails is – of course – an ongoing concern. I recently met with Secretary Richard Allan of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to discuss the 90-mile Donut Hole Trail and other hiking trails within the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania.
The Donut Hole Trail is located in the midst of the Pennsylvania Wilds and is a valuable connector trail for other long distance hiking trails in the area. Unfortunately, we have identified a 10-mile section of the Donut Hole Trail that will face significant visual impact from gas pads. A proposed trail relocation would route the Donut Hole Trail through Nature Conservancy property and would feature two beautiful vistas and a more scenic trace through the woods.
According to Dan Devlin, Director of the Bureau of Forestry, gas pads will not be located within 150 feet of any hiking trail in Pennsylvania. As such, DCNR approved the Donut Hole Trail relocation through the state forest to connect with the Nature Conservancy property. We appreciate the continued support of DCNR to protect our long distance hiking trails and will continue to seek opportunities to partner with them on future trail relocation projects.