'Build Our Trail' Group Seeks Non-Profit Status

A local group hoping to convert a portion of the former SEPTA Newtown rail line to a greenway are working towards forming a non-profit.

Recently, members of Build Our Trail gathered to discuss laying the groundwork for turning their group into a non-profit organization.

Build Our Trail is focused on converting a portion of the former SEPTA Newtown Rail Line in to a multi-use trail.

Last month, representatives of the group appeared before the Northampton Township Board of Supervisors, seeking the support of the board in their endeavor. However, after hearing from a few member of the community who were opposed to the idea, the board decided to table the discussion for a later date. 

"They didn't say no, as much as they said we'll talk about it later," said Tom Hibbs, as he led the meeting. 

Hibbs said the group was committed as ever to advancing its mission, and the first step in this was to gain non-profit status.

"This is something that we have been thinking about since day one," Hibbs said. "We've just been waiting for the right opportunity."

The group has recently published this survey, asking members of the community at large for their thoughts on the project. Click the link to share your viewpoint until December 31.

You can read more about Build Our Trail at their website. 

If you are interested in attending a meeting, email BuildOurTrail@gmail.com

TheEnergyGuy November 19, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Yes, I also hope to see you riding the Newtown Line with many hundreds of others to and from work and to stations in between, as well as walking, running or biking on the wonderful adjacent trail. It would be a dream-come-true with both environmental and recreational benefits for all. The looming decades long reconstruction of I-95 will be much more tolerable for regional commuters that choose to ride the train every day to and from work in Philadelphia.
Dennis Salwach, Jr. November 19, 2012 at 04:20 PM
EnergyGuy - I really don't think a rail with trail would garner much public support, due to the increased funding required, and the much increased resumption of private property that would have to occur to make this possible. A prime example of this would be the Old Jordan Road to East Holland Road section, which is sandwiched between adjoing residential properties. Or, consider the section between Holland Road and Bristol Road - there is not much room there. Most rail with trails that I have seen are in more remote/rural areas, or at least not so close to residential areas. I think many more challanges would be faced as well, where the topography changes, around the Huntington Valley section and it's narrow cut-throughs. I think the whole point of this effort is use what we currently have, with as little monetary and residential impact as possible, and not over-engineer this thing, be it a rail or a trail. I really feel that the rail with trail option that some groups are advocating is without really knowing the situation. It seems misguided - like someone saying let's build a monorail.
amills4964 November 19, 2012 at 04:24 PM
thank you for responding, build our trail. i just did a google search for this trail and railroad newtown line. their are long patch articles, patec websites and resolutions on township sites. in other words, high profile and lot of controversy. as a politician in any of these affected townships [and ig uess those who have signed these pro-traim resolutions) why would they want to support anything that is so controversial ? we all know how volatile the political climate is, if the last election is any indication (blue vs red, no middle ), this trail idea is going to be a very tough sell. dont get me wrong, i think it is good idea but this may be the wrong train line to do this on. no politician who wants to stay in office will get involvedd with any cause that has so much anger and controversy and will cause him or her bad press i think. maybe i wrong. [sorry for my poor english..]. How does your group intend to deal with all of this negative publicity and misinformation so early on as I too thought that you were asking for money for a feasibility study. does that have to be done?
Build Our Trail November 19, 2012 at 04:57 PM
We believe there is no better time than the present to support a rails to trails project. We have received a great deal of community support as well as support from SEPTA and we feel that together we can make this idea a reality. This line is actually the perfect line to propose a conversion because it is not a priority for SEPTA as well as the upcoming DVRPC 2040 Long Range Plan. (http://www.dvrpc.org/connections2040/) In all three investment scenarios (low, medium, and high) the Fox Chase extension is not included. Even in the Transit New Capacity (by scenario pg. 22) you will notice that the Fox Chase Extension does not appear. Additionally, the existing rail/trail in Lorimer Park (Montgomery County) provides a clear example of what our project would mirror and due to the fact that this rail/trail exists along the same line gives our project an added boost. We are working in sections. We believe that even if we can get a portion of this conversion done, the neighboring communities will be more inclined to support conversion in their community. We have never asked for money for a feasibility study. That was said by one of the supervisors at the Northampton meeting who admittedly was unaware of the intention of our group. We have provided information packets to each of the supervisors and will be formally presenting at a later date.
Build Our Trail November 19, 2012 at 05:14 PM
“Non-local expenditures related to recreation use impact the local economy in the form of increased output, income, and jobs. These increases are quantified by performing economic impact analysis.” —The Washington & Old Dominion Trail: An Assessment of User Demographics, Preferences, and Economics, Virginia Department of Conservation. Based on a 2008 survey of the Perkiomen Trail they saw a direct correlation of $2,338,231 annual soft good sales attributed to the trail. The Heritage County Rail Trail saw $4,011,165. From the Oil Heritage Trail System in PA - “An estimated 82,930 users who visited the trails between July and October, cre- ated an economic benefit of over $2.22 million for the region. This impact extended throughout the whole year is estimated to be almost $4.31 million due to an estimated 160,792 users frequenting the trails in 2006.” — Trail Utilization Study, Oil Heritage Region, 2008. The access question is valid. We have spoken with various other rail/trail groups throughout the country and many have utilized the parking lots in the old stations as the primary access points. This is absolutely an option for this project.
Build Our Trail November 19, 2012 at 05:16 PM
We concur Dennis. Not to mention a liability issue that SEPTA does not even want to entertain.
Build Our Trail November 19, 2012 at 05:41 PM
It is impossible to compare the carbon impacts of a trail vs. rail restoration. We can all agree that restoration is not and will not be occurring any time soon. The comparison is then between a rail/trail and doing nothing. Therefore comparing those two options, a trail would help remove vehicles from the road. "Recent studies have shown that making communities more bike/pedestrian- friendly can make a significant contribu- tion to overall greenhouse gas emissions by driving down VMT. Overall, creating bicycle/pedestrian-friendly communities can result in between a five to 15 percent reduction in overall VMT in a commu- nity (Litman 2007). These figures can be even higher in close proximity to bike/ pedestrian facilities with local reductions of 20 to 30 percent (CCAP 2007)." We invite you to review the benefits of "active transportation" in both helping to reduce emissions, improve community health, make create more livable communities. (www.railstotrails.org/resources/documents/.../atfa_20081020.pdf)
TheEnergyGuy November 19, 2012 at 05:46 PM
There is no better time than the present to support the energy efficiency, reduced VMT and GHG emissions, and the economic and environmental benefits that result from commuter rail. It is true that the Newtown Line runs through residential areas and is less rural than other rails with trails projects, but those points support the benefits of commuter rail in this region. Consider the common use of commuter rail in Europe and Japan to move people efficiently and comfortably, and the resulting lack of dependence on the automobile. I was a Boy Scout. I love hiking on trails. However, in the case of an existing commuter rail ROW connecting bedroom communities to the center of a metropolitan region, it is a terrible waste to not use it for that purpose. Eventually the obvious will become apparent to those that control the money and the commuter rail line will be restored. In the meantime we dither and the glaciers melt.
Build Our Trail November 19, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Agreed. But you can't change the fact that this line is not a priority.
TheEnergyGuy November 19, 2012 at 06:19 PM
"Agreed. But you can't change the fact that this line is not a priority." Exactly. It is not a priority due to a serious lack of money for transit. I recall the CFO of SEPTA saying just a few years ago that he'll restore the R8 if somebody writes a check. I need to hope that the priorities will change through enlightenment. Trails are great and so is commuter rail. The fact remains that a conversion of a ROW to a trail makes it nearly or completely impossible to ever restore the commuter rail. That's my $0.02. I'll keep quiet now and get back to work trying to save the world.
Franz Merkel November 19, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Hello, I'm not a regular Patch reader, but I was told of this blog over the weekend, and since I live near the line I thought my input might be appreciated by some. I've been in the township long before the train stopped running, and can say the character of Southampton has changed, for the worse, since it stopped running. It had issues, but we were grateful we had it. The 1982 crash had nothing to do with the train service ending. To my neighbors and those who don't want the train back: Many of you have moved here since the train stopped running. It is your fiduciary duty as a home buyer to be aware of what your future neighbors are. I ride SEPTA frequently, and schlep up to Warminster with my fingers crossed that I'll find a parking spot. I've talked to many friends on the trail, which is part of the township's comprehensive plan. Most of us don't want it because it adds many concerns which deal with safety and cost. Take a look at the Street Road underpass. While Southampton is my lifelong home, its now nothing more than an intersection of dangerous roads. We need to change. We need to get with the times. We can't let this asset continue to rot, and if we are to remain a strong bedroom community, then that train has to come back. Consider this: http://articles.philly.com/2005-10-27/news/25442840_1_corridor-strategic-plan-rail-stations
amills4964 November 19, 2012 at 07:54 PM
hi built our trail - thank u for answering and giving details about the good that rail trails bring. I know they are good and serve good perpose and i like them much but how this will get past the controversy? i guess what I say is that even with much resident support, facts ( like the links you Provided above) and everything else, look at this patch article and how many people have written on it. Why would mr Komelasky or ms silver or mr rothermle support this knowing how much fire it create ?
TheEnergyGuy November 19, 2012 at 09:35 PM
In the spirit of "You don't know what you've got till it's gone" please review this short document from the U.S. DOT FTA. On page three you can see how our heavy rail system dramatically reduces CO2 emissions. During rush hours the trains are pretty much standing room only well before they get to their destination. http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/PublicTransportationsRoleInRespondingToClimateChange.pdf When full, our rail system reduces CO2 emissions by 88.5% compared with a typical car.
Chris Weale November 19, 2012 at 10:51 PM
@Franz Merkel - thank you for the great input on this subject. If you scroll through many of the previous posts on this article, you may see of your concerns addressed already. There have been some very valid points made by both sides of this debate, but unfortunately those get lost in the "weeds" and overlooked. One point that I think needs to be clarified, is that the Build Our Trail group is not "anti-train" as is being implied. We have officially stated that we would welcome restoration of service on this line but the reality is that despite the best efforts of groups like PA TEC, service restoration in the near future not alive. We too also think groups like PA TEC are important as public watch dogs, but unfortunately they have become very adversarial with our group over the trail. With the restoration of train service not a foreseeable reality, our group is attempting to create something of both economic and recreational value to the adjacent communities where the fading train tracks exist. It's not an issue of train vs trail.
Franz Merkel November 19, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Mr. Weale, there have been several posts from a few people that support Build The Trail but make definitive statements that they do not want the train. Really, this is immaterial. I'd like to think that most of the people here are Southampton residents, and as such would be civil to all as representatives of this township. I only just learned about patec, so I can't render judgement, though they do have a very sharp and detailed website. We need people like that. However, I contacted Byron Comati at SEPTA, and was told that SEPTA has no plans to convert the line to a trail at this time. I think that ends the debate.
Chris Weale November 19, 2012 at 11:15 PM
@amills4964 - you've raised some great points and your input is very valid. Both myself and other BOT members have had the chance to speak directly to residents of both townships over the past few months regarding the trail conversion and the reaction that we receive is predominately is favorable. Whenever change is going to be discussed in a community, regardless of whether that change is significant or benign, there is always going to be a group of passionate dissenters, which is actually very healthy to the process. While there are many legitimate concerns by residents that we've done our best to address, you have to be careful using posts here on The Patch as a barometer on public opinion, as much of the "fire" you reference being present, is generated by special interest groups whose sole purpose is to muddy the water and "torpedo" the trail initiative. Thanks again for your input.
Ashley VanSant November 20, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Torpedo is an understatement. The trail group censors every bit of information from their Facebook page, hide the results of their "polls" and make unsubstantiated claims of supporters with meetings held in secret. The bottom line appears to be no one supports this, residents will be up in arms when they hear they're going to lose land to build accessways to the trail, especially along Churchville Road, and now SEPTA says they haven't endorsed anything. Funny how you guys tried to deflect criticism by talking about an invisible claim and picking apart the PA-TEC watchdogs instead of providing fact. The fact is Northampton isn't supporting you, SEPTA isn't supporting you, and neither is Upper Southampton. Just ask Joe Golden.
Ashley VanSant November 20, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Build our trail is about as believable as PA-TEC saying the train is coming back.
John Scott November 20, 2012 at 02:15 AM
BOT - you appear to lack an understanding of planning fundamentals and what "pedestrian friendly" means in this context. Surely you would not consider either a large shopping mall or the Sahara Desert parts of a ped-friendly community, and yet both provide for plenty of recreational walking just like your trail.  Truly ped-friendly communities don't simply add places to walk, though. They support walking as an *viable alternative* to driving.  Your trail is NOT an alternative to driving because it does not connect any significant number of people to jobs, other transportation, or commerce, because none are within reasonable walking distance. Your trail does no more to make your community ped-friendly than a racetrack helps with traffic congestion. A few sidewalks would go much further. As your co-member with an actual name points out, there's no train coming. So the analysis becomes trail vs no trail, or "forest" vs "pavement", with the additional impact of people driving to walk on your trail instead of staying home and enjoying a walk in their backyards (soon to be made undesirable by the addition of your trail.) You have the environmental/planning background. There's no reason why you can't tell us what the net carbon impact of this project is. If not, maybe you're the one who should be returning your diploma.
John Scott November 20, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Well, Ashley, we're not saying the train is coming back. We're not torpedoing the trail either - we think BOT is doing a great job of that on their own.
Ashley VanSant November 20, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Sorry sir, my name is not Paul. Its Ashley. Just because you don't like what I say doesn't mean I am someone else. Nice try though. Do you talk to all the girls that way?
the truth November 27, 2012 at 04:04 AM
WOW, what trails we tell. BOT was not asking for money at the 9/25 NHT supervisors meeting? Watch the replay at northamptontownship.com (click on tv) and watch the guy with the phillies hat ask who was going to pay for the 60k study. Answer from the sponsoring supervisor, “the township.” are we to believe that this supervisor was possibly confused and misinformed? Or are you saying that BOT just did a bad job prepping him? Southampton did approve the concept of a trail in 1992. What they successfully did is what BOT failed to do and that is to get the item on the agenda at the last minute, call it a discussion (not a vote) and stack the house with out of town bicycle zealots posing as residents. Most importantly, cross your fingers and hope no opposition shows up. Nice try! By the way, the SHT meeting following the conceptual approval drew a rowdy crowd all crying foul. BOT accusing PA-TEC of proposing the use of eminent domain is the pot calling the kettle black. Fact, the perkiomin trail would never have been completed without the use of eminent domain. I would suspect that most RTT projects use this disgraceful action against private citizens for of all things “recreation.”
the truth November 27, 2012 at 04:05 AM
BOT, Please stop misleading the public with your promotional trail pics that have no homes in them. You must know that this proposed project will cut through hundreds of homes , some as close as 50’. Lets be honest here, the view from the proposed trail will be of backyards or BOT installed fences So lets set the record straight. BOT wants the taxpayers to spend about 4 -5 million dollars for a trail that will sooner or later give way to a train in an area that has access to over 4000acres of open space and approximately 75 miles of trails. Its easy to waste OPM (other peoples money )isn’t it.
John Scott November 27, 2012 at 05:44 AM
The truth - BOT didn't admit to actually being at the NHT meeting until after the fact, so I don't think they prepped them at all. You'll note that nobody in the video identifies as BOT. It does raise some questions about how this got on the agenda without a local sponsor.
Russ December 14, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Put one of these in ------> http://gizmodo.com/magenetic-levitation/
Russ December 14, 2012 at 01:22 AM
With this tech ---> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inductrack
amills4964 February 25, 2013 at 08:30 PM
is build r trail nonprofit yet? wood like to make donation. thenk u
Maurice March 16, 2013 at 09:37 PM
While the rest of the nation is still suffering in the great recession, houses and businesses are still being BUILT around Newtown and Northampton Township. Public transit ridership continues to grow in this area, and eventually those in authority will wake up to the fact that the Newtown Rail Line is a valuable commodity worth restoring. The trail idea will only work if the rail line is already up and running.
Maurice March 17, 2013 at 11:44 PM
Dennis - Just doing a little "Internet" research on my own, I quickly came up with this short list to post on this page. However, the actual crime list of incidents on trails is quite a bit - enough to raise concern about sinking taxpayer dollars into something which must employ enough police and security measures to keep it safe. You mention the "lower crime rates along the proposed trail...." Put in the trail, and you will have higher crime rates without a doubt. Trails provide the perfect setting for personal attack by strangers.
Rickyrab December 26, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Sure, this line ought to be rebuilt...with a trail running somewhere near it. However, if you don't have the money for that, then just build the railway; if you don't have money for a railroad, then a busway might do; if the money doesn't exist for that, then a trail might as well suffice.


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