Participating in the April 19 ribbon-cutting event were (front, from left) Bill desRosier (Cabot), Cheryl Ellsworth (Countryside Conservancy), Bill Kern (CC), (back, from left) Mark Hessling (Rutledge Excavating), Gina Suydam (Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce), Jim Dougherty (CC), Tom Henry (Wyoming County), Chris Chermak (Lackawanna County), Ernie King (Wyoming), and Albert Propst (Dalton Borough).
Story and photos by Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Susquehanna County Independent)
Public officials and other supporters of the Countryside Conservancy got together in LaPlume on April 19 to provide some fanfare for Phase 3 of the Conservancy’s Trolley Trail project. The two-third mile stretch between Cherry and LaPlume streets in LaPlume was completed in the spring of 2020, but COVID restrictions prevented a ribbon-cutting ceremony at that time.
Conservancy executive director Bill Kern (below) provided opening remarks and introductions, explaining that there is always just as much or more happening behind the scenes as there is in physically clearing and constructing the trails. He extended his gratitude to officials from Dalton, LaPlume, and Factoryville, as well as to the Wyoming and Lackawanna County commissioners and Conservation board members.
“We are constantly trying to connect the dots,” Kern said of efforts to eventually have the trail reach both Lake Winola in Wyoming County and Montrose in Susquehanna County, as the electric trolleys once did.
“Many hands make light work,” trail coordinator Cheryl Elsworth (below) added, acknowledging Rutledge Excavating for their work in addition to that of many supporters and planners.
Bill desRosiers of Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, the key supporter of the new section, spoke of the difficulties of bringing projects like this to fruition.
“It’s not easy,” desRosiers (below) stated. “A lot of people would give up after a couple of months.” It has become a passion of Cabot to choose a project like this every two or three years to support and bring together the resources that natural gas has created, he noted.
desRosiers credited industry partners Sugar Hollow Water Services, Tioga Environmental Services, and Williams Companies for the roles they have played in this and previous phases of the trolley trail. Phase 1 was completed in 2014, and Phase 2 in 2017. The southern end of the new stretch starts near the abandoned abutments where the trolley crossed over a freight rail line, the bed of which became today’s routes 6 and 11.
From 1908 to 1932, the Northern Electric Street Railway moved both daily passengers and tourists up and down the lines that extended from Scranton and the Clarks Summit area to Hop Bottom and Montrose, with a side spur at Factoryville reaching Dalton and the Lake Winola area. The company filed for bankruptcy at the height of the Great Depression, and James Peck acquired much of the right-of-way segments.
James’ wife, Rosamund “Roz” Peck, was one of the founding members of the Countryside Conservancy and is credited with fostering the concept of restoring the old rail bed into a non-motorized community recreation trail. Both have since passed away, and their daughter, Abby is a current board member.
While trail supporters still have many miles of the original line to secure and convert back to public use, their efforts to date were validated this past year.
“We were busier than ever,” Kern related. Conservancy members thought the pandemic-related shutdowns were going to provide them a bit of a break. But when state officials encouraged residents to get outdoors for safer modes of recreation, he noted, “We saw a 150 to 200 percent increase in use of the trail system.” In the long run, Kern suggested, the economic impacts on the local communities will increase exponentially.
“Trails like this that turn old industrial waste areas into useful and beautiful space are wonderful for our counties,” said Wyoming County commissioner Henry.
Fellow Wyoming County commissioner Ernie King noted that he was not a big fan of exercise until he started exploring various trail systems in the region. Now, he walks the trails constructed by the Conservancy and Keystone College regularly to help complete his 20-mile per week regimen.
“The best part for me is that I live just a mile away,” Lackawanna County commissioner Chris Chermak remarked. He said he wished the trails had been accessible for training when he ran cross country as a high school student.
Interested readers can follow the Countryside Conservancy on Facebook to see trail maps and learn about other projects under the organization’s umbrella.
The updated map shows the portions of the Trolley Trail in blue that are accessible for hiking and biking. Purple sections have yet to be completed, and the yellow trail is a connector from Keystone College.
Wyoming County commissioners Ernie King (left) and Tom Henry investigate remains of the abutments that once carried the trolley across a rail line that eventually lent itself to current routes 6 and 11.