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More Resident Voices from Northampton Twp

23 Sep 2016

Crowd of 300-350 at Northampton Twp Special Supervisors Mtg on the Newtown Rail Trail

Crowd of 300-350 at Northampton Twp Special Supervisors Mtg on the Newtown Rail Trail

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Another Northampton Twp Resident Voices their opinion on the September 15, 2016 Board of Supervisors Special Public Meeting 

Dear Supervisors:

I recently attended a presentation and meeting held by the Northampton Township Board of Supervisors, with the aim of learning more about the proposed Rail to Trail project on the old Reading Line. Although this is an idea that has captured my interest for years, there is little publicity surrounding its current state – indeed, I would have been unaware of this opportunity had it not been for the volunteers at Northampton Days spreading the word.

As this is clearly an idea that will impact many of our lives, it’s unsurprising that there are passionate voices on both sides. However, I was impressed by the efforts of both the Board personnel and the assemblage as a whole to maintain, for the most part, an atmosphere of civility and respect.

Having not previously been involved in formal discussion concerning the proposed trail, I was surprised by a few of the objections that I did hear raised; in particular, the notion that the initiative is being driven primarily by special interests from outside the community. Impressive figures were cited concerning the trail facilities which already exist in Bucks County and surrounding areas. Why, then, would these ‘outsiders’ take time and effort from their own lives to create another – which, upon completion, would be little different to them than what’s already available?

On this point, I actually quite agreed. It seems much more likely, then, that there *are* many residents of Northampton Township supporting this project on a local scale, residents who feel that the building of the trail would enhance their own quality of life, and I would like the opportunity to explain my reasons as just one such person.

I have been a resident of this township for twenty-nine years – not quite as long as some who spoke up at the meeting, but I feel that these years carry their own weight, for they comprise the same twenty-nine years for which I’ve been alive. So, perhaps uniquely among those whose voices have been heard, I know what it’s like to *be* a child within two minutes’ walk of those tracks, and can say with confidence that the existence of a trail would have represented a far greater benefit than harm.

I grew up just around the corner from the site of the old Holland station. I explored the tracks many times in my youth, to the extent that the brambles and downed trees allowed, but despite several attempts, never managed to make it all the way through the section of which I can speak with the most familiarity – that which parallels Elm Avenue.

This street, as anyone who’s traversed it can attest, is not safe for pedestrians. In many places the shoulder is narrow, crumbling, or simply nonexistent. And yet if I wanted to visit the Churchville Nature Center, which was rightly described at the meeting as a stellar example of our existing park facilities, walking down Elm Avenue was precisely what I was obliged to do. Shortly before the bridge crossing the Churchville Reservoir, through a gap in the trees to the left, I would abandon the road with relief, veer across the tracks, and only then find myself happily wandering a beautiful trail system, one that would inspire my love of nature for years to come.

Another spot of contention at the meeting was the curve directly before East Holland Road crosses the tracks. The illustration of what crossing there would mean for pedestrians was harrowing indeed – unless one has had the experience of *being* a pedestrian on that road as it stands now. I can assure you, following the entire shoulder (which, like Elm’s, is barely deserving of the name) as cars come around what amounts to a blind curve is vastly more lengthy and dangerous than the five steps that would be needed to pass from one segment of the trail to another. Much the same can be said for the crossing beside the infamous left turn onto Bustleton Pike: what danger it would present pales in comparison to how things are now.

Had I voiced these concerns at the meeting, many of those who spoke would have simply told me to drive to where I’d like to go instead. And in a way, they’re right – this option is available to me now, and I take advantage of it. Access to the proposed Rail Trail would be a luxury for me at this point in my life.

And yet, another thing that was made clear at the meeting is that Northampton Township is a place where young families are raising their children – children who will have just as few opportunities as I did to explore the world around them without risking their lives on our heavily-trafficked roads. Indeed, many concerned parents might prohibit even that, leading an entire generation to grow up viewing nature as little more than a theme park, a faraway destination to which your parents might drive you for an outing on a weekend afternoon here and there.

To imagine, instead, that generation being able to simply walk out their back doors or down their own streets and find themselves immediately immersed in a linear park, a place where they could wander and explore, easily and safely reach other local green spaces, and allow their imaginations to be captivated by the realization that the trail under their feet is an integral part of a vast network, one nearly as far-reaching as the car-dominated roads which would thus far have shaped their ideas of how a destination might be reached…that thought is deeply inspiring to me, both on behalf of the children growing up in Northampton today, and the family that I hope it will someday be my privilege to raise here.

One concern I did hear raised at the meeting which seemed very reasoned was the impact on wildlife currently utilizing the encroached section. This is an issue I would strongly support any impact studies being focused on, with a particular eye to maintaining as much of the existing treeline surrounding the future trail as possible. Doing so would benefit the wildlife, make the prospective trail itself a more shaded and pleasant one, and possibly even provide a buffer to allay the concerns of some affected homeowners.

However, in the end, I believe that it is in the interest of the natural world, both here in Northampton and on a broader scale, that we bring our children up with an intimate appreciation of its value and their roles as its future stewards. How better to accomplish that goal than by allowing them unfettered access to that world, unimpeded by roads or cars?

I look forward to following this matter closely as it progresses, and hope that my neighbors in this township will do the same.

LaraN, Northampton Twp Resident

 

Sign the petition to build the Newtown Rail Trail at www.bikebuckscounty.com

Voice your Opinion by emailing the Northampton Twp Supervisors at:

Barry Moore: bmoore@nhtwp.org, Kimberly Rose: krose@nhtwp.org, Frank Donnell: fodonnell@nhtwp.org, Elaine Silver: esilver@nhtwp.org, Larry Weinstein: lweinstein@nhtwp.org

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