Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

$4.5 million extension underway to link Fort Hunter Park to Greenbelt.

Local and state officials break ground on the Fort Hunter Link, which will connect the park in Susquehanna Township to the Greenbelt Trail via Wildwood Park in Harrisburg.

Have you ever wanted to ride your bike from Paxtang to Fort Hunter Park?

That could soon be possible, thanks to a $4.5 million expansion to the Capital Area Greenbelt Trail, which runs for 20 miles through five municipalities in Dauphin County.

A two-mile trail extension will create a contiguous route from Fort Hunter Park in Susquehanna Township to Wildwood Park in Harrisburg. Local and state officials gathered at Fort Hunter today to break ground on the new segment, which has an anticipated completion date of late 2019.

Framed by sweeping views of the Susquehanna River and the Rockville Bridge, project leaders hailed the trail’s potential to make Fort Hunter accessible to cyclists and pedestrians.

“When you’re out biking, who would not want to come here?” said Barry Schoch, a former PennDOT secretary who serves as president of the Capital Area Greenbelt Association’s board of directors. “With this connection, you can come up to Fort Hunter, attend one of the many events Dauphin County puts on, enjoy this beautiful view and ride your bike back home.”

Located on the banks of the Susquehanna River, Fort Hunter is home to a historic mansion, outbuildings and playground. Its 40-acre grounds are popular for outdoor festivals, but the only safe way to travel to the park is by car, said Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick.

The Greenbelt extension will make the park accessible by foot and bike by creating a pedestrian lane on Front Street north of Linglestown Road. Front Street’s four traffic lanes will be reduced to three, with one turning lane and one northbound and southbound lane each for cars.

Traffic studies show the impact on motorists will be negligible, Hartwick said.

The project will also eliminate an on-road section of the Greenbelt trail along industrial sites near Wildwood Park. The new segment will start at the northern tip of Wildwood Park at Linglestown Road, running west to link with the new pedestrian lane on Front Street.

Click to enlarge the map of the 20-mile Greenbelt, including the 2-mile Fort Hunter Link. 

In addition to the $4.5 million expansion, the leaders also heralded an additional $3 million in safety enhancements planned elsewhere along the Greenbelt.

Six sites along the trail will get new paving and crossing signals in coming months, including intersections at Front and Vaughn streets in Harrisburg; Herr Street and Parkway Drive in Harrisburg; Market and 28th streets in Penbrook; Paxton and 32nd streets in Penbrook; Route 511 at the Five Senses Garden in Swatara Township; and Cameron and Elliot streets near the Dauphin County Recycling Center in Harrisburg.

Other downtrodden segments of the Greenbelt will also be repaved, among them the riverfront trail outside the PennDOT building in Harrisburg.

The bulk of the $7.5 million project budget came from a $5 million grant from PennDOT. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources contributed $1 million, and the remainder came from state and county agencies, including Dauphin County Gaming Grants.

More than 400,000 visitors use the Greenbelt annually, Hartwick said. The 20-mile trail was conceived more than 100 years ago by Harrisburg resident Mira Lloyd Dock, who advocated for Harrisburg to join the nationwide City Beautiful movement and improve its public spaces.

Along with the landscape architect William Manning, Dock envisioned the Greenbelt as an “emerald necklace” connecting the city’s Riverfront Park to surrounding communities.

The project was partially completed by 1917, but extensions stalled until a group of residents formed the Capital Area Greenbelt Association in the 1990s. Grants that CAGA obtained in 1999 allowed it to complete the trail according to Dock’s original vision.

Plans for the CAGA Fort Hunter Link extension. (Courtesy of Dauphin County.)

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