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Council Authorizes Trail Commission to Approve Special Events

On March 7, Lower Saucon Township Council gave the green light to the Saucon Rail Trail Oversight Commission to approve special events held on the trail in the township, although it will retain final authority over those decisions.

Special events such as 5K races and bike rides could be coming to the in the near future.

At Lower Saucon Township Council's March 7 meeting, township manager Jack Cahalan said the multi-municipal Saucon Rail Trail Oversight Commission has already received several requests to host special events such as races, in spite of the fact that the trail is .

Cahalan wanted to find out from council members whether the commission could be given the authority to approve events held on the rail trail, because no framework currently exists for it to do that.

Without such a framework, he said, each member municipality's governing body--including the township council, Hellertown Borough Council and the Upper Saucon Township Board of Supervisors--will have to approve each event.

Cahalan called that process potentially "daunting," and recommended that the oversight commission have the authority to approve events on a case-by-case basis.

"I think they can do a good job of monitoring these events if they are able to approve them," he said.

Councilwoman Priscilla deLeon said she was inclined to go along with Cahalan's recommendation, but asked about whether the trail would remain accessible to members of the public while special events are being held.

"I wouldn't want it to be happening all the time that people couldn't use the trail," she said.

"I don't think that's going to be the case," Cahalan responded, adding that accessibility to the trail would most likely depend on the particular circumstances of the event being held.

Council vice president Tom Maxfield had the most concerns about granting the oversight commission the authority to approve special events.

He said he is worried about the commission's ability to communicate information to members of the public, and said there could be events that will be more "onerous" for the township to host than for other municipalities.

Cahalan pointed out that the rail trail commission maintains a popular Facebook page, which it utilizes to relay information, and said that a website for the trail is in the works.

"All of this information (about events) will be on there," he said.

Cahalan also noted that legally, council can overrule any decision to host an event made by the commission, since the rail trail is leased property and the lease is in .

Council solicitor B. Lincoln Treadwell verified that that is the case.

"You always have the right to say no," he said.

Councilman David Willard called the debate about whether or not to give the commission the authority to approve special events "a matter of trust and a matter of control," and said council "can play it either way."

A motion to give the commission that power was approved by a vote of 4-1, with Maxfield casting the dissenting vote.

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