At the May 17 Northeast Trail Symposium, PEC shared the first draft of the regional gap analysis it’s undertaking in the Poconos region.
This project is an opportunity to demonstrate the utility of Gototrails.com, a virtual whiteboard for trail planners and managers to share their ideas and vision for trail connections. Gototrails.com is already being used by the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, but this is the first opportunity to really help illustrate how the individual efforts on the ground can set the trail goals for a region.
In the Poconos region, the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is working to complete the D&L Trail from Wilkes-Barre to Philadelphia by 2020. The D&L will one day serve as a spine for many of the region’s trails, as the trails are following rail corridors that helped to fuel the Industrial Revolution that moved materials out of the valley to the port and markets in Philadelphia. This initiative is made possible through a William Penn Foundation grant in an effort to continue to connect The Circuit Trails.
Each of these trail groups, such as the Back Mountain Trail, the Trolley Trail, the Susquehanna Warrior Trail, the Greater Hazelton Rail-Trail, and the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail, have done a lot of work planning their next phases while focusing their attention on where the next construction opportunity exists. But an overall view of what the potential all these projects held did not exist.
With the gap analysis that PEC is undertaking, all the current plans of the organizations are being collected and added into Gototrails.
This will make it much easier for all the groups to gain a better understanding of the work their peers are doing, while also making the case for new partnerships and potentially attracting new funding to support their efforts. The reality for local trail groups is that often times the day-to-day necessity of focusing on only the current project means that potential opportunities are missed as distractions. By mapping and visualizing a larger network, it can help serve to set future directions.
But there is another aspect of the gap analysis that will help strengthen the groups. In addition to the mapping, PEC is also working through a questionnaire with the trail groups to better understand the maintenance arrangements, right of way ownerships, emergency response plans, and wayfinding for the trails. By building a database of these documents and plans, the hope is to provide the individual groups with more specific resources and technical assistance in ways that will be most effective.