Shippensburg community members raced, ran, rode and rambled to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail bridge and Shippensburg extension on Sunday afternoon.
The morning started with the 11th annual Race, Run, Ride and Ramble festival, including races, bike rides, a free lunch and live music. All benefits from the event went to the Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council (CVRTC).
After the events, community members and leaders gathered at the bridge over Fogelsonger Road to begin the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Speakers emphasized the importance of the trail bringing the community together. They also expressed their gratitude for all the supporters that made the bridge and expansion possible.
Barbara Lyman, interim president of Shippensburg University, reflected on the history of the route as a way for students and others to travel to the university by train. The Cumberland Valley Railroad had a stop in front of Old Main, she said, and provided a connection to the school, community and commonwealth.
“This community connection continues with this beautiful 11-mile trail through Shippensburg and Newville,” Lyman said.
The trail also represents an educational opportunity, and professors are looking at ways to use the trail and incorporate the university into the community, she said.
“For us at Shippensburg University, this represents more than a bridge over Fogelsonger Road,” Lyman said. “It represents a bridge for a stronger connection between the university and the community.”
Steve Oldt, a supervisor of Shippensburg township, also shared some history of the rail trail. Oldt spoke about the original grant of $500,000 in the early 2000s, which started with an application for equestrian access to the trail.
Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Lauren Imgrund emphasized the importance of improving the accessibility of the trail to residents and students.
“It’s great that all of you in this community are recognizing that trails are a key to improving quality of life for residents,” Imgrund said.
A couple of years ago, Imgrund said a survey of 73 percent of people wanted their local community to place a high priority on investing in community and regional trail systems. This public input confirmed Pennsylvanians want trails close to where they live to make connections to communities and parks, she said.
The Cumberland Valley Rail-Trail is one of 183 rail-trail projects in Pennsylvania.
So far, there are 1,806 miles of trails and 660 more potential miles of trails, according to Imgrund.
The goal, Imgrund said, is to have a rail trail within 15 minutes of every Pennsylvanian. To achieve this goal, Imgrund said we need to prioritize greenway corridors, and a majority of them are rail trails.
There are also 248 priority gaps in the trail where there are challenging property or infrastructure issues such as bridges. The Cumberland Valley Rail Trail still has five gaps. She said filling these gaps will also make the goal of accessible trails achievable.
The mayor of the Shippensburg borough, Bruce Hockersmith, said he had been thinking about where the land has been and gave a brief history of the railroads that once inhabited the trail.
“Today, we become a part of the land of the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail with a renewed spirit of awe and adventure that so many have shared before,” Hockersmith said.