The Cumberland Valley Rail Trail will be extended to Big Spring High School later this year, thanks to a $222,322 grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The project will be the focus of a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Newville Borough Office.
Awarded through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, the grant will allow the Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council to move forward with its Big Spring Trail Connector Project.
Council board member Jim Hoefler said the project will extend the trail an additional mile, from Centerville Road to Big Spring High School, and include a safe trail crossing at Mount Rock Road.
He said the council also has funding for a $1 million project that includes construction of a bridge at Big Spring Road, .6 miles of trail from Big Spring Road to Centerville Road, and an underpass at Centerville Road.
Jim Mader, who is also a council board member, said work is also scheduled in Shippensburg — bridges at Fogelsonger and Big Spring roads and an underpass at Route 233 — and when complete, the trail will run from Shippensburg to Newville.
Hoefler and Mader expect all of the work to be completed by this fall.
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“A person could start walking in downtown Shippensburg and walk to Big Spring schools,” Hoefler said.
“When this trail is completed, it will be a safe route to school,” Mader said. “Kids will be able to walk or ride their bikes, which they can’t do now ... I think the public will be ecstatic about the improvements.”
Work on the trail first began in 2006. Today, Mader estimates it is used by 40,000 people each year.
He said the trail is used often by residents of Shippensburg, Newville and Oakville, as well as track and cross country teams, but he expects its popularity to increase with tourists as the trail expands.
“It provides an agricultural appreciation and outdoor exercise — biking, hiking, horseback riding,” he said. “It provides local jobs for people working on the trail, so there’s a very big economic plus for the region, too.
“But the big attraction is the beauty of the valley. Some of the most beautiful views of the valley are from the trail.”