It was an occasion to celebrate in Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township, as local officials and residents gathered in the borough's Water Street Park to cut the ribbon on the new Saucon Rail Trail Saturday morning.
Standing near an information kiosk next to the trail, Lower Saucon Township Manager Jack Cahalan welcomed attendees to the ceremony and talked about how the completion of the rails-to-trails project was a years-in-the-making effort.
Noting the contribution made to that effort by former Hellertown Borough Manager Charlie Luthar, Cahalan commented that "Charlie made a phone call I think every other month to SEPTA starting seven years ago."
SEPTA owns the rail line, and the rail trail property is now under a 30-year lease to the municipalities through which it passes, including the borough and the township.
"Finally, three or four years ago I think something clicked down in Philadelphia," Cahalan said.
Cahalan also thanked public works department employees from both Hellertown and Lower Saucon for working in overdrive-mode in order to finish work on the trail by early this month.
He added that the project's completion would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who have met monthly as part of the Saucon Rail Trail Advisory Committee.
The members of the committee, which will continue to meet in the future, include Frank Pazzaglia (Hellertown), Steve LaBrake (Hellertown), Gail Nolf (Hellertown), Donna Bristol (Lower Saucon), Jerry Holum (Lower Saucon) and Jennifer Wescoe-Schaninger (Coopersburg).
Referencing the fact that the SEPTA rail line once brought thousands of passengers through Hellertown and Lower Saucon--on their way to Philadelphia or Bethlehem--Cahalan said it is satisfying to realize that the trail will once again bring thousands of people to both communities.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful thing that's happened here," he said.
Hellertown Borough Council President Phil Weber agreed, and noted that first and foremost, the trail "is for the people of Hellertown and Lower Saucon."
Lower Saucon Township Council President Glenn Kern joked that since his home is only about 20 feet from the rail trail, it would be nice if walkers speak quietly if they pass it at 7am.
Over the past two months, he said he's observed many people walking the trail, socializing, exercising and having fun.
"The people that are walking the trail are coming together," he commented. "It's a gathering place for our community."
After remarks had concluded, Kern, Weber and several other council members from both municipalities stood across the trail and ceremonially cut a long red ribbon in honor of the occasion.
Immediately afterward, a number of attendees headed off to walk, bike, and even Segway down the new path in both directions.
More information about the Saucon Rail Trail is available online on the rail trail committee's Facebook page.
Rules for the trail's use are posted in the information kiosk next to the trail in Water Street Park.