Wolf Hikes Closed Trail To Pitch $4.5B Projects Plan

May 22, 2019

JIM THORPE — Gov. Tom Wolf stopped by the recently closed Glen Onoko Falls Trail on Tuesday to tout a proposal that could help address infrastructure needs in the state. “It’s a wonderful place to be,” Wolf said from a spot near the Lehigh River. “It brings lots of people. That river, this trail, bring a lot of people not just from this area but from all over the United States. This is a real gem, and we need to invest in it.” Glen Onoko Falls Trail at State Game Lands 141, which borders Lehigh Gorge State Park, is known for waterfalls and scenic views. The Pennsylvania Game Commission, which owns the land, closed the trail leading to the falls May 1 due to unsafe conditions from erosion and overuse. At least 15 people have died on the trail, and more than 80 have been injured. Wolf, along with state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth Twp.; Cindy Dunn, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and Bryan J. Burhans, executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, discussed how the Restore Pennsylvania proposal could help address infrastructure needs in the state. Restore Pennsylvania would be funded by a proposed severance tax on natural gas and would invest $4.5 billion over the next four years into high-impact projects such as storm preparedness, disaster recovery, redevelopment of blighted areas and maintenance of natural spaces. It would cost about $4 million to restore the Glen Onoko Trail, and land would be transferred from the game commission to DCNR. “We are the only major natural gas producing state without a severance tax. Now we do have the impact fee, and we need to keep that in place,” Wolf said. Adding a “modest” severance tax would allow the state to restore the trail and complete other needed projects, he said. Wolf said that the Independent Fiscal Office in Harrisburg claims that 80% of the tax would be paid for by folks who don’t live in Pennsylvania. “This would be a fine thing for this area but a fine thing for Pennsylvania. This story repeats itself with every municipality, every locality around Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. Yudichak, who has hiked the trail several times, is one of the main sponsors of the bipartisan Restore Pennsylvania. “There are few counties in Pennsylvania that live up to the wonder of Penn’s Woods as well as Carbon County. We have so many wonderful assets here,” he said. According to Yudichak, hundreds of thousands travel to the area each year. While here, they sink money into the local economy. “Losing one of our great tourism amenities, through the closure of the Glen Onoko Falls Trail, means local businesses and local communities take a big economic hit,” he said. More than 20,000 people have signed an online petition to reopen the trail, Yudichak said. “Carbon County needs the Glen Onoko Falls Trail back open for business, and Governor Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania plan can get the job done,” Yudichak said. Burhans said the game commission is self-funded and doesn’t receive tax money from the state. “This example of a trail is really truly an infrastructure need,” Burhans said.”This is a very intensive trail that has created a lot of problems and injuries.” Dunn said that state parks’ and forests’ infrastructures aren’t “up to snuff,” and rattled off a list of closed campgrounds, flooded access roads and damaged bridges leading to recreation areas. She estimated that about $1 billion would be needed to maintain the areas. “We need Restore Pennsylvania to bring the state’s parks and forest systems back up to snuff,” she said. Contact the writer: jwhalen@standardspeaker.com 570-501-3592

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