A Brief History of Progress to Date
- by Ellen Roane and Jill Rondeau
Efforts towards creating the Greenbelt first began about 100 years ago with the City Beautiful Movement. Cities at the time were heavily polluted, sanitation very poor, and pubic parks and open space scarce. The City Beautiful Movement was an effort to improve living conditions across the nation's cities, and in Harrisburg one of many improvements planned was the creation of a "parkway", a linear park around the city. Portions of the parkway were completed, but fell in to disrepair over the years.
In 1990 the Bureau of Forestry approached the City of Harrisburg with the idea of completing the parkway ("Greenbelt"), through grants and funds other than tax dollars. The City was supportive but wanted the cooperation of other surrounding jurisdictions, including the Boroughs of Paxtang and Penbroook, Swatara and Susquehanna Townships, and Dauphin County,
since the proposed route would cross all those lines. A series of meetings was held to solicit input from local jurisdictions and from various state and local resource management agencies. A plan was developed using funds from a U.S. Forest Service grant, and volunteers were enlisted to begin work restoring the existing segments of the original parkway.
Volunteers have met once a month since December 1990 for a workday on the trail. Volunteer labor removed hundreds of tires and literally tons of other debris dumped at various points along the trail. Impenetrable brush which had almost completely obliterated the parkway road surface in places was removed , along with fallen trees and litter. Local municipalities have assisted with trash removal and with the use of equipment. An Appalachian trail style pedestrian bridge was constructed and a trail spur linking a neighboring community to the Greenbelt was rerouted to correct a drainage problem, and the new trail was resurfaced with wood chips. A thorough cleanup of Spring Creek, which parallels the trail, has been conducted each summer. Water quality monitoring through the Bureau of State Parks' program is ongoing. Other portions of the trail have been and continue to be, re-routed to avoid streets where ever possible. Footbridges are maintained, a portion of the Paxtang Parkway has been re-surfaced, and a new bridge redirects the trail as it follows underneath Rte I-83 beside a Spring House in Paxtang Borough. There is a new crossing over the railroad tracks in South Harrisburg. Getting the trail marked and keeping it free of debris continues to be a challenge.
The Capital Area Greenbelt Association was formed in 1991. The main objective of the Association is to facilitate the completion of the Greenbelt, by serving as a liaison between all parties currently or potentially involved: the various local jurisdictions, service organizations, the business community, and resource management agencies.
The Association has monthly business meetings and schedules a workday one Saturday per month as well.
There is also a newsletter, The Greenbelt Gazette.