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Now-completed Northwest River Trail connects five Lancaster municipalities

The finished trail links to the Susquehanna River Water Trail, giving locals access to more walking, pedaling and paddling opportunities.

LANCASTER, Pa. — Mike Walsh, deputy secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), helped cut the ribbon to open the final section of the Northwest River Trail today.

The expansion connects more people than ever to the Susquehanna River Water Trail. It also links the river towns and villages of Marietta, Wrightsville, Columbia, Bainbridge and Falmouth.

"Trails connect places," Walsh said, via a press release. "They connect people to the outdoors. They bring visitors to communities to help keep economies vibrant, and in the case of the Northwest River Trail, also connect people to the river. So, it's a great day when we can celebrate a trail being complete, moving us closer to our goal of a trail within 10 minutes of every Pennsylvanian."

Along the 14-mile trail, hikers will find signs advertising the businesses that each community boasts. The path offers new opportunities to those out enjoying nature and entrepreneurs. 

It has encouraged reinvestment in old businesses and the creation of new businesses.

"We started our outfitting business in Columbia because we bought into the vision of local leaders that the river is a resource that should be protected, yet capitalized on, to bring people to town and expand the economy through ecotourism," Jim Cox, owner of Chiques Rock Outfitters in Marietta, said in a press release.

The project has been in the works for decades. It follows the route of the historic Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, using some of the original towpaths that remain.

The DCNR supported the construction with more than $3 million in Community Conservation Partnerships Program grants.

Connecting Lancaster County through the old and the new exonerates the history of the area and increases peoples' access to outdoor activity.

“We’re a growing county, and we need to provide recreation resources,” Michael Domin, principal planner with the Lancaster County Planning Department, said. “This is one of the primary recreation resources that the county is striving to bring to the general public here: a lot of open space, lots of room to recreate, a safe place for families to come and ride bikes and walk and enjoy nature.”

The Northwest River Trail is located in the Susquehanna Riverlands Conservation Landscape and the Susquehanna National Heritage Area. It also lies in the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water trails Network.

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