The Commonwealth Awards honor model development projects in both the private and public sectors. The awards program is the heart of 10,000 Friends’ efforts to identify and network leaders in all professional specialties related to the built environment. The Commonwealth Awards help 10,000 Friends to put smart land use and smart growth in the spotlight, increasing awareness of model projects around the Commonwealth that successfully demonstrate sound land use principles. Eligible projects must meet high standards in project design and construction and positively impact their communities.
Located in Union County, Pennsylvania, and owned by the Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority, the Rail Trail is a multi-phased project entailing the conversion of a historic rail line into over 9 miles of pedestrian and bike trail. The project is ultimately envisioned to connect the West Branch Susquehanna River, the Boroughs of Lewisburg and Mifflinburg, and points of interest between. Since the opening of the first phase in November 2011, this trail has provided a safe bicycle and pedestrian connection to important community civic spaces and parks that are close to the trail. This has made a positive impact on existing infrastructure and to the surrounding communities. The project was chosen for the award for meeting several 10,000 Friends Objectives: furthering smart growth, revitalizing communities, and protecting historic assets, open space, and green space.
Shawn McLaughlin, Union County Planning Director said, “This project was a vision conceived over 12 years ago, and with persistent effort over that time, many partners joined together to plan, seek funding and implement this valuable recreation and transportation corridor for the use and enjoyment of all residents of Union County”.
Steven Beattie of LDG, one of the trail’s project managers, said: “This was a very enjoyable project to be part of as a landscape architect. It is not often that I can be part of a project that becomes such a treasured community asset. Its location close to my home is an added benefit, since I can enjoy the trail firsthand, watch how others use the trail, and consider future extensions.”
The awards were presented on December 2 in a ceremony at the Marriott Heritage Ballroom at Penn Square in Lancaster, PA.