Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg gets state grant, will begin major Paxton Creek reclamation project, mayor says.

Artist’s rendering of part of the proposed Paxton Creek Park in Harrisburg.

Harrisburg has received a $2 million state grant to begin its ambitious Paxton Creek Reclamation project, Mayor Eric Papenfuse announced today.

The funds from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant will make only a small dent in the project’s anticipated $60 to $90 million cost, but will allow the city to begin initial work of removing bridges and buildings that restrict the creek channel.

Papenfuse announced the grant at his annual “State of the City” speech, which he delivered to a coalition of nonprofit leaders at the Harrisburg Crowne Plaza Hotel this morning.

The yearly address is typically an opportunity for the mayor to recite campaign-trail talking points and administrative achievements. But Papenfuse used today’s event to announce several new initiatives, including the construction of the city’s first traffic circle and a new summer festival in Reservoir Park.

He highlighted multiple infrastructure projects in his 30-minute speech, particularly those that will improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. That includes the Paxton Creek Reclamation project, which aims to widen the Paxton Creek and lower its floodplain elevation, making hundreds of blighted, industrial acres more attractive for development.

The project will also create recreation areas along the creek and increase connectivity between the downtown and Allison Hill neighborhoods. Papenfuse said that a new segment of the Capital Area Greenbelt trail, which runs for 20 miles in and around Harrisburg, could be constructed along the creek once the project is complete.

The city also requested $14 million in RACP funds to build a bridge over Division Street in Uptown Harrisburg, which would connect HACC’s main campus to Uptown Plaza. That application was denied, but the mayor was optimistic that the city could successfully re-apply in October.

Papenfuse also unveiled new plans for multi-modal transport along 7th Street, which will complement the construction of the new federal courthouse at 6th and Reily streets. The renderings call for sheltered bike lanes along the length of the 7th Street office corridor, as well as the construction of Harrisburg’s first traffic circle at 7th and Reily.

“This is all to ensure safe transportation and… encourage less car dependency in the city,” Papenfuse said.

With the exception of vehicle-related accidents and deaths, almost every category of violent crime has fallen in Harrisburg since Papenfuse took office. He pointed to that statistic as one of the hallmark achievements of his administration, along with growth of jobs and investment in the city.

Those investments have included corporate sponsorships for community events and festivals. The city hosted its first annual Fire and Ice Festival downtown this March, and Papenfuse said that the first-ever Weekender Festival will take place in Reservoir Park later this summer.

Papenfuse also said that that the city’s population seems to be growing, given a recent rise in revenues from the city’s local service and earned income taxes. After decades of decline, the city’s population began to stabilize with the 2010 census, ticking up by 1.2 percent, and Papenfuse believes the 2020 census will show additional growth.

The mayor assured the audience that, as the population grows, his administration is “mindful of our responsibility to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table.”

Papenfuse addressed education only briefly in his speech, when he said that the city is working with the Harrisburg school board and the state Department of Education to find a new chief recovery officer to oversee the school district’s recovery efforts.

Current CRO Audrey Utley will retire when her contract expires on June 30.

Click here to learn more about the Paxton Creek Master Plan.

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