York County Heritage Rail Trail
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|York County Heritage Rail Trail|
|Length||21 mi (34 km)|
|Trailheads||Heritage Rail Trail County Park Map|
|Use||Hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, pet walking|
|Trail difficulty||Easy, level, ADA accessible|
|Right of way||Northern Central Railway|
Heritage Rail Trail County Park is a National Recreation Trail rail-with-trail in Pennsylvania built in 1999 by the York County Government; it connects with the Northern Central Railroad Trail in Maryland. The trail runs along the active Northern Central Railway line and forms the southernmost part of Route J in the BicyclePA route system.
The Heritage Rail Trail is located along railroad tracks built during the nineteenth century as part of the Northern Central Railroad. (NCR) NCR important link between Washington, D.C. and points along the northern path to Lake Ontario and upstate New York.
During the Civil War, the railroad was a target of the Confederate Army before the Battle of Gettysburg. The Confederate Army’s troops tried to isolate the Union's capital by damaging the railroad, telegraph wires and bridges. On November 18 and 19, 1863, President Lincoln traveled on the railroad and stopped at Hanover Junction before giving the Gettysburg Address.
Between the years of 1838 and 1972, NCR connected Baltimore, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania and vastly contributed to the municipalities along the railroad. The line eventually came under Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) ownership. In 1968 PRR and rival New York Central Railroad merged to form the Penn Central Transportation Company (PC). By 1970 PC was bankrupt. The line sustained significant damage resulting from Hurricane Agnes in 1972. PC joined the government-created Conrail in 1976 and the line was abandoned shortly thereafter. The state of Maryland abandoned the line within state borders; Pennsylvania removed one track and left the second in place. In 1990 York County officials looked to develop the 18.5 mile-corridor alongside the dormant trackage. Expansion of the trail to 1.5 miles from John Rudy County Park to Crist Memorial Fields was completed in August 2007. Beginning in early 2012, a $1.3 million project to further extend to the Northern Extension of the Heritage Rail Trail County Park.
In 1992, two Eagle Scouts from Troop 37, Chad Harvey and Jeremy Sykes, spearheaded the development of the trail’s first 1.48 miles as their Eagle project. The project encompassed the section of trail running from the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line to the New Freedom junction. Harvey and Sykes raised donations in the form of monies, material and volunteer labor. Both attained the rank of Eagle on August 25, 1993 and their trail was officially opened to the public during York County Rail/Trail Adventure Day on June 4, 1994.
The New Freedom Railroad Station of 1860 was restored to its 1940 appearance in 2003 and is used by Steam into History. Other historical sites include the 250 foot long Howard Tunnel of 1838, named for a Revolutionary War soldier from Baltimore, and the Mason–Dixon line, the old line of freedom." Memorials include a Korean War memorial in downtown York and a War Rescue Dog World War II Memorial.
- "2010 National Recreation Trails". The National Recreation Trails Program. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
- Pam, Gay. "York Heritage Rail Trail Named Trail of the Year 2015" (PDF). York County PA website. Retrieved 2015-10-19.
- "York Road Runners June/July 1994 Newsletter" (PDF). July 1994. Retrieved 2015-10-19.