The great outdoors

Northampton Township in the planning stages of multi-use trail

Outdoor adventures: Northampton Township is reviewing a Master Trail and Bicycle Facilities Plan, which would create a township-wide multi-use trail. Pictured is the right-of-way along the northwest side of Buck Road, opposite the intersection with Briarwood Drive, showing the connection to the existing footpath on the Holland Middle School/Hillcrest Elementary School property. Source: Northampton Township

Residents of Northampton Township may soon have a new way to travel through the area.

Currently, the board of supervisors and Bucks County Planning Commission are reviewing a Master Trail and Bicycle Facilities Plan, which would create a township-wide multi-use trail, or network of trails, aimed at enhancing local quality of life and providing more outdoor experiences for locals.

The public was invited last Tuesday to the Free Library of Northampton Township, 25 Upper Holland Road, Richboro, for an informal information session on what’s referred to as “The Plan.” From 7 to 9 p.m., they were able to ask questions and share concerns about the project.

Present was board of supervisors chairman Adam Selisker, who said The Plan was proposed in early 2019.

“There was a lot of discussion around the potential for trails and individual trails. So, the board felt that it would be good to have a comprehensive look at what trails and a trail network could look like in Northampton Township,” Selisker said. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback that multi-use trails, the ability for our residents to have safe places to walk, ride their bikes, is important. And you can see that trend throughout the country. There are trails being developed all over the nation, and many residents want that kind of facility.”

According to Selisker, a movement to accept The Plan will most likely take place by the end of February.

“We have to see what fits best in Northampton and look at the overall picture and see how it works for our residents,” Selisker explained. “It doesn’t mean that every single thing happens at once, but we’re looking forward to the process.”

While the possible trail is still in its early planning stages, The Plan outlines several key goals, such as supporting a healthy lifestyle for activities like walking, cycling and running by providing safe routes; strengthening community social interactions; providing safe access to nearby parks, churches and shopping facilities; promoting and sustaining the local economy; and protecting water quality and scenic and natural resources.

The development of The Plan was overseen by a steering committee, comprised of Northampton Township supervisors, township employees, township engineers Amanda Fuller and Kurt Schroeder, and township solicitor Joseph W. Pizzo. The committee is looking at several areas as part of the planning process, including Neshaminy Creek, Almshouse Road, Bristol Road, Newtown-Richboro Road, Holland Road and PA Route 232. Full details, as well as pros and cons for each spot, are available online.

Taken into consideration was the township population, which, as of 2017, was estimated to be 39,411. The township is expected to remain an attractive place for future residents and developments, so the committee believes the trail would be used and needed for years to come. It said the trail would benefit all age segments, especially individuals under the age of 19 and over the age of 65 – groups who typically don’t drive as much.

The Plan lists several existing trails spanning 32.03 miles that would form the beginnings of the proposed trail. These include Northampton Recreation Center, Tyler State Park Nature Trail, Northampton Municipal Park Complex, Holland Middle School Complex, Bustleton Pike to Hilltop Drive and Churchville Nature Center.

Plan is in action: The proposed multi-use trail is aimed at enhancing local quality of life and providing more outdoor experiences for locals. Several existing trails spanning 32.03 miles would form the beginnings of the trail. Source: Northampton Township

Funding for the trail would come from federal, state and private sources, with all available options highlighted in The Plan.

A concern of residents has been whether or not the trail would cause an uptick in crime. The committee gathered statistics on other area trails, including Pennypack Trail in Lorimer Park/Abington Township in Montgomery County.

According to Scott Morgan, Region III Manager, Montgomery Parks, Trails & Historic Sites, crime along the Pennypack Trail is almost nonexistent. More specifically, he indicated that the most common complaint he receives is relative to dogs being off leashes within the park. Although he was aware of other incidents along the trail, such as a suicide in the woods off the trail, a drug overdose and a few cars getting broken into in the trailhead parking lots, he wasn’t aware of any homes being burglarized, assaults or homeless issues.

Regular maintenance would be conducted on the trail to help keep it safe and clean. Examples include weekly litter pickup, monthly pavement sweeping to remove gravel and wet leaves, annual inspection of trail surfaces and, as required, graffiti control, patching and minor pothole repair, and the removal of fallen trees and limbs.

Updates will be made available at northamptontownship.com under the “Information” tab. Residents are encouraged to subscribe to the email list to stay up to date.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com