New Rail Trail Group questionable

New rail trail group in UST/Northampton will endanger nearby residents

There is apparently a new rail trail group in UST/Northampton that is interested in converting the SEPTA Fox Chase-Newtown line into a trail. This is going to be a serious problem for both communities should this obtain any sort of approval and support. Luckily, both UST and Northampton Supervisors have signed resolutions over the past several years in support of retaining the railroad as just that. Both have stated that a trail would be of little benefit in an area with almost no public transportation.

Though the line is very scenic, it also very suburban. Residents whose property abuts the railroad (particularly on Old Jordan Road/East Holland Road/Cherry Lane/Carlin Drive) have loudly stated in the past that if they had to choose, would rather have a train (there are supposedly plans to utilize a portion of the line for occasional trolley service to Tamanend Park) than a trail in their back yard. The trail would be too close in proximity to adjacent properties and will become a playground at all times. It also gives criminals easy access to high value homes (I have seen this elsewhere in suburban areas with ill-conceived rail trails).

Also, this proposed trail cannot qualify for Rails to Trails Conservancy money (none of SEPTA’s rail trails can). You will notice that all SEPTA rail trails - Cynwyd Heritage Trail, Saucon Rail Trail, Pennypack Trail – are not part of the national Rails to Trails Conservancy. They cannot be because the real estate is owned by a government entity. This will mean we have to foot the bill for the construction in higher taxes.

It will do little to relieve the unbearable road congestion. SEPTA has preserved this crucial transportation corridor for future use as a railroad. Diverting a high-grade piece of infrastructure (railroad) to a relatively low-grade purpose (trail) is like taking over an expressway to use for someone's driveway. Between Tamanend Park, Churchville Park and Springfield Lake, we are doing just fine with trails. There is no need to pull up any more track.

I strongly advise this trail advocacy group to work in conjunction with the numerous pro rail groups for a joint project which will benefit all parties. There are no known instances of rail trails converting back to railroads. The rail trail idea coupled with the continued preservation of the railroad could be considered as a single valid political issue (see my attached photo of a successful rail with trail in York County, PA).

I vote against it and will be sure to make this clear at any UST meetings. I will urge my Northampton friends to do the same and create a STOP THE TRAIL group.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ashley VanSant July 08, 2012 at 03:26 AM
I'd also like to point out to the readership on Patch that every name these guys post with online and on their website appear to be ficticious. Nia McHarg, Jeff Beson, Sean Mclaine, and so on. Most of the signatures on their petition are people that don't even live in Upper Southampton Township (violation of the petition's terms of service BTW)! Amazing what NIMBYs will do to protect their fifedoms.
Ashley VanSant July 08, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Mr. Benson, there are no trains in your back yard, never have been, never will. The trains that used to run were on their own property, and frankly, if the thought of the train returning bothers you so much, you should never have bought a house adjacent to a railroad, active or otherwise. But this is all nonsense because trains are not returning, no one is operating anything back there. As nice as the trolley to the park sounds, I don't see it happening.
Jordan Lauren July 10, 2012 at 05:59 PM
When I grow up I want to be like Nia McHarg and watch Law and Order
Fred Rosa July 11, 2012 at 05:57 PM
For every ying — http://www.buildourtrail.org/... There is a yang: — http://www.stopthenewtowntrail.com/ Hang on folks. The pro-rail trail vs. no-rail trail battle has begun. UST locals may have noticed the graffifi emblazoned underneath the Street Road overpass near the cleared tracks. I can only imagine what a trail will bring.
Fred Rosa July 11, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I must ask, though. what happened to Jeff Benson and Nia McHarg's comments? Or are they one in the same i.e. Jeff Benson = Nia McHarg = Ian McHarg [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_McHarg] = Jordan Lauren? The plot thickens. Let me know who is who. I am lost.
Just the truth July 11, 2012 at 11:10 PM
After being politely notified, the operator of the trail site removed all of their fictitious posts. Part of the problem was that one of the individuals appeared to also be an appointed township official in the area, as well as a government employee, and had apparently also failed to disclose all of this. In any case, you can still find the comments here: http://uppersouthampton.going.com/users/nia-mcharg/comments?page=1
Muggs Ferguson July 12, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Ladies and Gentlemen, IF you think that the rail property is not already being used as a trail, then you are sadly mistaken. Take a short walk on the rail line, and you'll discover beer bottles, vandalism, and graffiti (as mentioned above). I honestly don't know where I fall in this debate but I believe that a trail will attract more people to the trail and therefore chase away the 'unsavory'. I think a trolly to some of the neighboring areas would be great, but as mentioned, doesn't seem like a reality any time soon. I could be WAY off base here and probably am, but these are my thoughts. BTW, I am a real person living on a real Cherry Ln.
Ashley VanSant July 12, 2012 at 06:39 PM
The people of Southampton have already spoken. They said NO TO THE TRAIL. Several times. It may be in the comprehensive plan, but according to the township manager, the trail is dead. Southampton doesn't want it, Northampton doesn't want it, and for sure Bryn Athyn doesn't want it. If you don't like looking at beer bottles, and vandalism, I suggest you help those guys out at the old station who seem to be pretty dedicated to making the area look better.
Fred Rosa July 13, 2012 at 10:12 PM
@Muggs. It is true. Railroads lines—active, unused, abandoned—have traditionally been a haven for people to dump and trespass, particularly in more suburban/urban areas. In my 78 years, though, they are usually cleaner and less a haven for such disreputable behavior when they are active. Take note of the nearby Norfolk Southern line that crosses County Line Road. If anything, it would be great to see the trains come back just to clear out the line. Rail trails are fine if the line was outright abandoned and the land sold to the local government (this is usually the case), not if owned by a public transit agency. The buildourtrail.org site mentions that Upper Southampton Township Comprehensive Plan Update/Northampton Township Open Space Plan Updates have discussed the rail trail idea on this line. However, nothing was ever approved or signed: only discussed. Both UST and Northampton have repeatedly signed resolutions to preserve the line as is. It would be politically unpopular for township supervisors to publically reverse this decision. Unless this “grassroots” idea (as the website declares on its main page) has significant support from pols, it will be very, very difficult to get this past the "idea" stage—unless the "grassroots" moniker is a front for a private entity (National City Lines) or government entity (Abington supervisor, Pennypack Trail) to advance an agenda.
Brian Pugh July 23, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Crime is another bogus counter-point. It is no surprise that Dayton is a hot bed of crime, including meth-heads and standard thugs. However, the trails have not created a crime highway to the other parts of town and the suburbs. Many of these trails are adjacent to homes and businesses alike. Even on my early morning rides, I have never seen a homeless person on the trail (a walk along the major streets in downtown will give you a chance to meet them). I think in the 30 miles of trails I cycle, I have only seen 2 places that have graffiti on them outside of your regular bridge graffiti. Both of them are wooden guard rails in between towns.
Brian Pugh July 23, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Sorry about the previous comment. I had to break this up. I stumbled here to get big picture perspective on rail-trails, and not to troll but it seems the counter points to the trails listed here is false. I live in Dayton, OH for many years and we have a extensive network of trails that run through downtown Dayton, the suburbs, and even other towns. There is even a major trail that runs from Cincinnati to Columbus. All of it is ran by the Miami Conservancy District (http://www.miamivalleytrails.org/). Everyday hundreds if not thousands of people use these trails in this region to commute, exercise, or just passing through. Along the trail various large community parks (Riverscape Metro Park in Dayton, and Cranes Run in Franklin) are connected and allow people access to the trail and connects others to parks outside of their community. However, to address the counter points here, these trails are not a money sink. Our road quality asphalt trails need no further maintenance other than somebody to come out and trim the trees and mow the grass. In some places the adjacent road has been repaved far more times than the trail itself.
Brian Pugh July 23, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Crime is another bogus counter-point. It is no surprise that Dayton is a hot bed of crime, including meth-heads and standard thugs. However, the trails have not created a crime highway to the other parts of town and the suburbs. Many of these trails are adjacent to homes and businesses alike. Even on my early morning rides, I have never even seen a homeless person on the trail (a walk along the major streets in downtown will give you a chance to meet them). I think in the 30 miles of trails I cycle, I have only seen 2 places that have graffiti on them outside of your regular bridge graffiti. Both of them are wooden guard rails in between towns. Noise and pollution are non-existent too. Just about every person that uses the trails are continuously moving and listening to personal music players. The only noise you might here is the sound of a bicycle coasting by but even at a slow pace of 10mph, it will be gone before you notice it. However, my experience has shone me that people on the trails are either really nice and say hello to you as you pass by, or are too busy trying to be the fastest cyclist they can and just node. In addition, our region has seen a major economic uptick due to these trails. There are several bike shops that are bringing in customers, food stands popup, and popular festivals centered around the trail are thrown. Feel free to email me with other questions pbrian (at) alumni.nmt.edu -- Brian (3000 miles on the trail)
Ashley VanSant July 25, 2012 at 05:31 AM
You live in Dayton Ohio and you just happened to decide to comment on an article in Upper Southampton? Seriously? Propaganda. UST Says no and will always say no to rails-to-trails.
Brian Pugh July 25, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Ashley, Correct, I do live in Dayton and I just happen to post here. My Google searches for rail to trails and other bikes paths brings this up on the first page or so. However, I'm not pushing propaganda, just some facts. Given my background in software development, I'm inclined to fix inaccuracies and provide correct information. I invite both opposers and supporters alike to come out to Dayton and experience our great trails. I only had to ride them once before I was hooked and I would be glad to do 30 miles with you. -- Brian
Jack July 26, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Fred, you may want to change the words a little before you copy and paste directly from the stopthenewtowntrail website...
Fred Rosa July 26, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Hi Jack - I noticed that actually. My original 6 July post preceded the group copying and pasting my text to their site. Both they and that of the pro-trail group (or, more accurately, pro-trail UST elected Goverment official doubling as a "grassroots organization") changes regularly with new additions. More power to them, I suppose. If this blog helps the overall situation, I have no objections. Nice try, though. Better luck next time trying to swallow your feet.
Jack July 27, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Your comment doesn't make any sense. Did you mean to say that you are OK with people copy and pasting so long as it supports your agenda? Also, its spelled government. I live in Northampton and actually saw your post on the Northampton Patch and realized it was double posted. Not sure where you got your information but there doesn't seem to be much evidence behind what you are saying. If there is, please enlighten me. Trying to minimize a group that is trying to do something good for our communities is childish.
Ashley VanSant July 28, 2012 at 03:00 AM
The anti-rail group has yet to provide any information that indicates that the group is legitimate. No names, closed door meetings, ramblings about ficticious developments. Residents along the line have already made their position known about the trail. Its not going anywhere folks.
Fred Rosa July 29, 2012 at 02:10 PM
"Did you mean to say that you are OK with people copy and pasting so long as it supports your agenda?" No, but I can see how ignorance can lead to such a misinterpretation. It is a shame your generation is now absorbed by the politics in this once-great country, where any idea is labeled an “agenda.” "Also, its spelled government." Quite childish, actually. Particularly since it is spelled "it's." There is no need for everyone one of your sentences to reveal your shortcomings. Please be respectful when having a public discussion. There is little question that recreational trails can be a great asset—if built in areas that lend themselves to them. In addition, rail trails can be a great way to reuse a rail corridor that has long since been abandoned by the railroad (who no longer sees value to it as a railroad corridor) and the land sold a government entity. The Chester Valley Trail (http://www.chesco.org/ccparks/cwp/view.asp?a=1552&q=621764) is a fine example of this. The corridor was abandoned by Conrail in the late 1980s and sold to MontCo/Chester County. The line was never discussed as a future freight or passenger corridor because Amtrak/SEPTA and Norfolk Southern have railroads within a stone’s throw from this line, so it was expendable. Both counties just recently finished building a trail on it. Good. And it will link to the famed Schuylkill Valley Trail, an added plus.
Fred Rosa July 29, 2012 at 02:10 PM
The RR is owned by a public transit organization that has tried desperately to reactivate the corridor, but politics in MontCo and myopic planning on SEPTA’s part prevented it (as well as the defunct Schuylkill Valley Metro to Reading, but that’s another story). The corridor travels through an area in very close proximity to homes. Successful trails tend to be more like nature trails and have few — if any — road crossings, and travel through less populated area. They so have great connectivity. Ms. Jordan/McHarg/Benson (I’ve lost track of all her aliases) promotes connectivity, but failed to provide a map. My grandson pointed out there are no other active trails nearby the immediate railroad. This has been a deterrent on many rail trails that start and end on major roads. The Cold Spring Bike Path (a rails with trails in Cape May County) suffers from this at several points.
Fred Rosa July 29, 2012 at 02:10 PM
The person running this show is apparently an elected public official who has sock pupated on several websites and apparently has already been outed. Her motives are also questionable. Ms Jordan's "idea" sprouted when the Newtown Branch Preservation Foundation and Southampton Railroad Station Society began cleaning the immediate station area. Her posts on this very website as "Nia McHarg" pretty much prove that. The Chester Valley Trail was not built to prevent the railroad from returning. There is a big difference between a pro-trail and an anti-rail group/person. The website is propaganda "get this railroad out of here now" disguised as "look how great this trail is." Do not forget — and this bears repeating for those who seem to forget it — that Both UST and Northampton have repeatedly signed resolutions to preserve the line as a railroad. It would be politically unpopular for township supervisors to publically reverse this decision, as well as support an elected official who created a website under the guise of a “grassroots” organization. This appears more like a Ph. D. who wants to add another project to her resume.
Fred Rosa July 29, 2012 at 02:11 PM
The safety aspect is a problem. Rail trails can bring many problems. The Saucon Rail Trail on the old Bethlehem Branch (also owned by SEPTA) is now a haven for dog feces and trash (my grandson showed me posts on their Facebook page). There are regular occurrences on the Henry Hudson trail in Matawan, NJ, which travels through old industrial areas and urban decay. Dayton is just one example. I am not saying crime will happen, but we have now given this an avenue for potential. Trash will occur without question, so be prepared for that. Most importantly, this rail trail will come at a cost. We are sacrificing a valuable resource — a railroad — that should be preserved for future generations. If this was an effort to reuse a long abandoned corridor that was now owned by a government township (see above), you have not sacrificed a railroad line that is still listed as “temporarily out of service.”
Fred Rosa July 29, 2012 at 02:17 PM
For those who are curious, here is a detailed map are all trails in Bucks County. There is no shortage. http://www.trails.com/activity.aspx?area=11951
joey joe joe August 02, 2012 at 03:08 PM
I think a bike trail is a good idea. The people who don't want the trail live in a fantasy world if they think train service is coming back. The whole line has to be electrified. SEPTA can not afford this. They can barely afford upkeep.
Claude Rousseau August 07, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Build the bike trail. Northampton and Holland residents don't deserve SEPTA service. They chose to live in traffic congestion and they're quite proud of it. Why waste tax money on a bunch of ingrates when the money should go to towns or the city that appreciate SEPTA bus and train service? Tear up the tracks, get SEPTA to sell it, and be done with it!
Newtown Branch Preservation Foundation August 07, 2012 at 05:10 PM
We have been reading these posts with curiosity and amusement. The Newtown Branch Preservation Foundation is open to negotiations with Ms. Jordan’s “buildourtrail” group to perhaps combine efforts and employ a "rails with trails." Unfortunately, they have declined and rejected all offers of mutual collaboration to improve the railroad jointly. www.newtownfoundation.org
Kelly Hoffman-Knittle September 18, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Hello, I am also a real person who backs up to the Churchville train station. I live on a dead end street and have longed for years to be able to ride my bike safely around this area. I can't as of now. I have a daughter and I can't even safely walk to the next neighborhood without taking our lives in my hands. I am also an avid bicyclist who has used trails all over Pennsylvania. Let me tell you what kinds of people I have found on those trails. Nice people out walking their dogs, other fellow bicyclists, people out for an evening stroll. I have wished these wasted railroad tracks were used for something beneficial for years. It is a pipe dream to think the rails are going to run again. I'd rather a few people walking enjoying the scenery, than a noisy train running in my back yard. By the way, I have lawn dumpings and a broken down platform to look at. And to the resident on East Holland road who dropped off a flyer saying to vote against this, sorry for your luck. It's a shame if you moved next to a railroad line and never imagined something would develop from it.
Dennis Salwach, Jr. October 04, 2012 at 02:31 AM
It would make sense to covert this to a MUP and eventually connect the D&L to the Schuylkill via the Pennypack and Cross County (Montgomery County) Trails. Don't forget, the Chester Valley Trail is currently being constructed as well. Could you Imagine going from Frenchtown, NJ to just south of Lancaster, PA on trails? Crime, vandalism? Have any of you ever been on the Perkiomen Trail? The Schuylkill? Seriously. SEPTA has written off this land until 2030. I'd like to see this as usable space before I am 45. Look at the improvements along 202. Look how bike paths affect home values. Look at gas prices. Do some research.
John Scott October 04, 2012 at 02:54 AM
So are there any studies showing how many people would take a rail-trail to work each day? For example, commuting from Frenchtown to just south of Lancaster? I'm sure it's quite a market. While that market matures, perhaps we could find better ways to spend taxpayer money - like creating real infrastructure and getting people back to work.
Dennis Salwach, Jr. November 08, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Sorry, I didn't see your post. Here is the information that you requested. http://bikebuckscounty.com/ In the Bicycle Master Plan, see "Appendix B", pg 131 of 280 for "Survey and Public Involvement Findings" Hope this helps.


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