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$7M improvements made to Lehigh River access point, D&L Trail

Improvements to Lehigh River Access

Thank you PA for putting resources into our outdoor recreation!!!

$7M improvements made to Lehigh River access point, D&L Trail in state park
Updated: May. 24, 2023, 1:45 p.m.|Published: May. 24, 2023, 12:45 p.m.

By Sarah Cassi | For lehighvalleylive.com
Just in time for the unofficial start of summer, Pennsylvania officials on Wednesday opened a new access point along the Lehigh River and improvements to the D&L Trail in a state park in Luzerne County.

The $7.4 million in improvements in Lehigh Gorge State Park, which follows the Lehigh River from the outlet of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Francis E. Walter Dam to Jim Thorpe, includes a new boat access, and a trailhead and enhancements to the D&L Trail north and south of White Haven, Pa., with plenty of parking.

“We are not done, there is more to come. (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) is continuing to improve this state park,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said.

The D&L Trail is a multi-use trail network that uses the Delaware and Lehigh River canal towpaths and railbeds from Bristol Township in Bucks County to Wilkes-Barre, said Liz Rosencrans, director of trails and conservation for the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.

The reopening of the trail around White Haven means there is now a 59.8-mile continuous route on the trail from the Black Diamond Trailhead in White Haven to North Catasauqua in Northampton County, Rosencrans said. When complete, the trail will span more than 165 miles and become the longest multi-use trail in the state.

“This project links to nature and the environment, as well as industrial heritage … it connects people to the health and wellness benefits of outdoor recreation,” Rosencrans said.

The Lehigh River is a tourist destination, and is one of only three designated whitewater boating zones in the bureau of state parks, officials said.

The White Haven access point in Lehigh Gorge State Park used to be a very congested location with a lone porta potty, said Sierra Fogal, co-owner and president of Pocono Whitewater.

There’s now ample space for rafting outfitters, private boaters, fishermen, hikers, bikers and walkers, she said.

Pocono Whitewater offers rafting and kayak trips on the river and is one of four rafting companies that operate in the park. Fogal said the groups create more than 1,000 full-time and part-time jobs, in addition to the money spent by visitors spend when they visit, Fogal said.

There is more opportunity to be tapped, and Shapiro is proposing $500,000 in his budget for a new Office of Outdoor Recreation to connect state parks and forests with local businesses.

The governor on Wednesday called on lawmakers to pass his proposed budget, which includes creating the new office, $112 million to maintain and improve infrastructure in parks and forests and $2.8 million to support operating needs for the management and safety of public lands.

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