Lebanon Valley Rail Trail
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Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails
|Location||Lebanon County, PA|
|Use||Running, walking, skiing, biking, horseback|
|Difficulty||Easy, level, ADA accessible|
|Surface||Crushed stone, pavement|
|Hours||Dawn to dusk, year-around|
|Amenities||Benches, picnic facilities, parking|
|Bathrooms||Porta-poties at Cornwall trailhead|
|Connects to||Conewago Trail|
The Lebanon Valley Rail Trail (LVRT) is a National Recreation Trail. The rail trail goes from the southwestern border of Lebanon County and goes through Colebrook, Mt. Gretna, Cornwall, and the city of Lebanon. At the southern border of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania the LVRT connects with the Conewago Trail and continues for another 5.5 miles. The trail is partly built on the old Cornwall-Lebanon Railroad created by Robert Coleman (industrialist) in the 1880s. The trail runs 14.5 miles currently, and there are many phases in development that would extended the trail to northern Lebanon County and Jonestown. The trail features a packed stone path and paved path at many parts that traverses "Pennsylvania Dutch Country" and other scenic routes. Trail users see untouched woodlands of state gamelands, forests, and views of area fields and farms. The trail is maintained by dedicated group of volunteers, and allows for running, walking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.
The Cornwall-Lebanon Railroad was built with $1.2 million in the 1880s by the rich socialite Robert H. Coleman. The railroad was used to carry passengers from the extremely popular resort community of the time, Mt. Gretna. Later the railroad was used to transport the Pennsylvania National Guard from their camp near Mt. Gretna. As time went on the railroad service stopped, which resulted in the rail being purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad. This group continued use of the rail up until the powerful Hurricane Agnes devastated Lebanon County. The hurricane destroyed sections of the track in 1972. But, until the purchase of the track in 1999 the rail was unused. The Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails, Inc., lead by John Wengert Jr., purchased the rail line and began construction of the LVRT.
Trail’s history and evolution
2009 marked the acquisition and development of a 2.5 mile extension to the City of Lebanon. The trail passes near Zinns Mill Road toward the Lebanon Expo Center, then to South Hill Park, and ending at the 8th Street trailhead. This section of the trail features a 10 foot wide paved surface, equestrian path, and an above ground bridge at Wilhelm Avenue. Construction cost $575,000 and was funded by personal donations and federal and state funds. The City of Lebanon extension was built upon the former Cornwall Industrial Track and acquired from the RJ Railroad Co which was used by Conrail to serve the local Alcoa plant in South Lebanon Township.
Modern-day extensions are focused on the updating of the Cornwall trailhead, which was partially funded by a $25,000 gift from the Friends of the Rexmont Dams. Studies are in progress to develop an area outside Jonestown that will one day connect to a Union Canal trail and the City of Lebanon section of the LVRT.
The Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails, Inc., works to improve the conditions, length, amenities, and land in order to improve the experience of visitors.
Design and Construction
The trail consists of two parallel paths; one that is surfaced with crushed stone to accommodate walkers, runners, bikers, and cross country skiers in the winter, and one that is surfaced with woodchips to accommodate horseback riders. The majority of the trail is under canopy, with open areas in several locations. Two bridges can be found along the trail at Wilhelm Avenue and near the Cornwall Trail Head, while warning signs can be found at the six, at grade road crossings.
Trailheads can be found at Lawn Road, Colebrook Road, Alden Place, Cornwall, near the Expo Center in Lebanon, and on 8th Street. Parking is available at all of these locations and also between Eckert and Lawn Road, and just east of Lincoln Ave near South Hills Park. Benches are placed in several locations along the trail and restrooms can be found at the Lawn, Colebrook and Cornwall Trail heads. A large root beer barrel located at the Cornwall trailhead serves as a small gift store and the trail is located in the vicinity of several restaurants and ice cream shops, an inn and bike shop.
The best way to describe the support for the trail, that has resulted in over 130,000 users of the trail annually, can be a quote directly from the LVRTs website:
"The most unique aspect of the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail is that all fundraising, construction management, trail maintenance and public relations is performed by an extremely dedicated core group of volunteers. Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trail, Inc. is the non-profit organization formed in 1996 to spearhead this rail-trail’s development and management. Operating in a county without a public parks and recreation department, LVRT filled the void with volunteer effort and “sweat equity”. Local legislators were so impressed by the public support and the success of a private fundraising campaign which raised over $300,000 dollars for the first phase of the trail, that they responded by providing state grants to extend and complete development of subsequent sections."
The trail sponsors several events including Root Beer Barrel Day, capital fund-raising campaigns, high school team runs and organized bike rides. Root Beer Barrel Day is an appreciation event for the LVRT that uses the Cornwall Trailhead as a gathering location where trail goers are offered to buy food and gifts from the oversized root beer barrel shop located there. Another event significant to the trail is the Adopt a Bench program that offers supporters of the LVRT to donate a bench that will be placed along the trail with a plaque attached to it in honor of the donator. The Adopt a Foot program allows supporters of the trail to donate in a smaller amount that can help to increase the quality and maintenance of the trail
- "2010 National Recreation Trails". The National Recreation Trails Program. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
- Latimer, John (2012-03-29). "Lebanon Valley Rail Trail good exercise and economics". Lebanon Daily News.
- Snyder, Steve (2012-08-28). "Rexmont Dams funds turned over to Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails". Lebanon Daily News.
- Information Interview with Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails head, John Wengert Jr