Hitting the Trail for More Biking Access
Jim Hoefler and Jim Mader work to make Carlisle more bike-friendly
by Jordan McCord ’10
July 1, 2010
Christina Socci ’13 (left) and Sarah Gray ’13 promoted the rail-extension project by painting two windows in downtown Carlisle this spring.
the near future, Cumberland Valley rail-to-trail enthusiasts imagine Carlisle
and the surrounding area will be more like the country of Denmark, where the residents
rely on bicycles for transportation. Through their work with the
Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council (CVRTC), Jim Hoefler,
professor of political science, andJim Mader, a fitness instructor at the
Carlisle Family YMCA, hope to make this vision a reality.
Both Hoefler and Mader, who teaches
yoga for Dickinson’s employee wellness program, are board members of the CVRTC, a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to constructing
outdoor, multi-purpose trails, where railroad tracks once existed, in the
Cumberland Valley of south central Pennsylvania.
The current path follows the Cumberland
Valley Railroad rail corridor for 11 miles, from Shippensburg to Newville. Once
the proposed extension is completed, the corridor will extend 22 miles, from
Shippensburg all the way to Carlisle.
“There are many logistical hurdles to jump,
but I think it’s realistic to think that we will be able to get from Carlisle
to Shippensburg on a network of trails, perhaps with some short back-road
detours, in two to three years,” Hoefler said.
The former rail bed provides the ideal
structure to accommodate such a project, which will feature a 10-feet-wide
platform with two bike lanes, he said. There also will be room for a grassy area
next to the trail for horses and riders. Exercise enthusiasts will be able to
walk, jog, bike or horseback ride seven days a week. The trail can be used
throughout the year, serving cross-country skiers in the winter.
“The biggest challenge is getting those
not familiar with the idea to warm up to it,” Hoefler said. “I have never met
anyone who did not think it was a great idea after they had been on a trail,
but sometimes it’s hard to get people on board and excited about something they
are not familiar with.”
The viability of the extension is dependent upon
raising funds to purchase a strip of former railroad land owned by PPL Electric
Utilities. Mader and Hoefler also are working to win the support of private
homeowners near the trail.
describes the project as one that promises countless possibilities, including
community activities, such as a Shippensburg-to-Dickinson marathon, he said.
He also envisions a variety of economic
benefits for Carlisle and the surrounding area. “Land values go up because
people want to be near parks, and as people spend more time out in the rural
areas surrounding Carlisle they will better appreciate the nearby agricultural
industry,” said Mader. In addition, increased traffic
between Carlisle and Newville could help draw businesses into Newville.
Mader grew up in Elizabethtown, Pa.,
and developed his passion for bicycling early on. “By age 6 we were on bikes
and gone; you can’t do that in Carlisle.” However, with the new extension,
Mader foresees local residents making lifestyle changes, especially in this day
of rising fuel prices.
Hoefler, who spent the spring semester
in Copenhagen, Denmark, on sabbatical has grown more enthusiastic about the
Cumberland Valley project since seeing the central role that biking plays in
the life of that nation.
Hoefler and Mader began working as a
team last October, and Mader said he was extremely grateful to have the support
of Dickinson, particularly from President William G. Durden ’71, who
hase ndorsed the extension committee’s pursuit of a grant to finance the project.
Recently, Dickinson students also became involved in helping to get the word
out about the proposed extension.
Christina Socci ’13 and Sarah Gray ’13,
members of the Arts Collective, the
major student organization related to the Art & Art History Department, helped Mader decorate windows on High
Street to advertise the project.
“After hearing him talk about the rail-trail
extension, I was thrilled to help out,” Socci said. “It’s a great cause—connecting
towns, enjoying nature, the works.”