In The Loop

Welcome to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority's Blog

Entries Tagged as Trail Development

Celebrate Clean Water

June 01, 2017 ·

Join LCSWMA and other conservation-minded organizations during the inaugural Lancaster Water Week, happening June 3-10. During this week-long celebration of clean water, hosted by the Lancaster Conservancy, learn how Lancaster County's 1,500 miles of streams drive economic opportunity, and how protecting these waters benefits us all.

Fourteen special events are planned for Water Week, including three with LCSWMA.

Save-the-date, and enjoy free educational, family-friendly programming:

Saturday, June 3National Trails Day Celebration
Lace up your hiking boots or grab your bicycle and hit the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail for National Trails Day, happening Saturday, June 3 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Free family-friendly activities will take place at three event hubs - Columbia Crossing, Mussleman-Vesta and East Donegal Riverfront Park. Visit LCSWMA's event booth at Columbia Crossing to learn how we make waste a resource and enjoy an interactive activity for kids.

Wednesday, June 7Watershed Expo
Celebrate and learn about our local watersheds at the Chiques Creek Watershed Alliance's Watershed Expo, happening Wednesday, June 7 from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Manheim Farm Show Complex. LCSWMA will host a Home Compost Workshop during the event. Stay for FREE ice cream, live music and interactive exhibits about the importance of clean water.

Saturday, June 10: Make-and-Take Workshop
Join LCSWMA on Saturday, June 10 for a Make-and-Take Workshop where participants will create their own earth-friendly cleaning products. The Make-and-Take Workshop focuses on the importance of proper household hazardous waste disposal, in helping protect our water, and offers options for environmentally-friendly alternatives. This event will take place from 9 - 10 a.m. in LCSWMA's Training Room at the Transfer Station Complex located at 1299 Harrisburg Pike, Lancaster. Registration is required. Sign up here.

And for those outside of the area, visit for suggestions on how you can get involved in your community.

Tags: Community Events · Community Recreation · Northwest Lancaster County River Trail · Trail Development · Wildlife

Riverside Adventures

October 26, 2015 ·

Riverside Adventures
Originally published in Lancaster County Magazine 

Knowing I had to write about the trail, I thought it would be a good idea to walk it. So, on a gorgeous afternoon in late August, I asked Miss Paisley (my dog) if she’d like to go for a walk. Upon hearing the word “walk,” she made a beeline for the front door. Little did she know that our regular jaunt around the neighborhood was being replaced by a stroll along the river.

We arrived early in the afternoon to find parking at a premium. This was one busy place! I couldn’t help but notice how many people were negotiating the trail on wheels; the mode of transportation ranged from tricycles to wheelchairs. I was also struck by the number of young people – toddlers to millennials – on the trail. It was gratifying to know that Mother Nature still trumps cell phones and PCs.

Incredibly, I saw someone I knew. Jared Erb, a designer with the Custom Home Group, came whizzing by on his bike. It was his second time on the trail. “I didn’t even know it existed until I saw it on the website,,” he explains of discovering it mid-summer. While he’s a fan of the Enola Low Grade that’s farther south, he finds the Northwest to be “the most interesting,” due to the variety it offers: river views, wooded areas, farmland, vintage photos, historical comment, and, of course, the White Cliffs of Conoy.

Jared also noticed the youthfulness of the trail’s users that day. “It is encouraging to see more and more young people out enjoying nature,” he says, adding, “I think it’s a wonderful use of tax money, and I’m glad to see the local municipalities investing in projects like this. I hope they finish it all the way up to Harrisburg.”

That is not inconceivable. Hopefully by year’s end, the entire length of the trail – 14.5 miles, stretching from Columbia to Falmouth – will be open.

The Conoy Township portion of the trail began welcoming visitors late in the summer of 2014. In anticipation of increased traffic, the American Legion’s Koser Park, where the trail can be accessed in Bainbridge, was given a facelift. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy the river – or a picnic – before or after you tackle the trail. Ample parking is available and on busy days, an overflow lot is open.

The Back Story

Steve Mohr, who has been a Conoy Township supervisor for 28 of the past 30 years, grew up in Bainbridge. The river was his playground. The Mohr brothers, other family members and friends spent their free time fishing and hunting along its banks.

In the early 80s, Steve learned the bankrupt Penn Central Railroad was being ordered to liquidate its holdings. “I hated the thought of it becoming private property,” he says. “That would have ended our access to the river.” So, Steve approached his brothers and father with the idea of buying the stretch of land in Conoy Township that in places was only 80 feet wide. Initially, his father wasn’t receptive to the idea. “He wanted to know what the heck we were going to do with it,” Steve recalls. The younger Mohr explained they could share it with the public as a recreation area. His father was dubious, saying people were too busy to take the time to walk along the river. Still, he acquiesced, and the Mohrs bought the riverside acreage.

When Steve became a Conoy Township supervisor, he approached his colleagues, Bob Strickland and Joe Kauffman, with the idea of buying the riverfront that stretches north from Bainbridge to the Dauphin County line for recreational purposes. While they were receptive to the idea, they were hesitant, not knowing where the money would come from to pay for the purchase. “So, I approached [County Commissioner] Jim Huber,” Steve recalls. Commissioner Huber arranged for grant money. With the help of volunteers, a trail between Bainbridge and Falmouth was constructed. “It’s pretty primitive, but we’re going to start upgrading it next spring,” Steve says. “I’d love to see it hook a right and connect with the Conewago Trail that goes through Mt. Gretna.”

The Mohrs eventually sold their parcel to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, which in turn leased it to Conoy Township as part of the Northwest trail. “Solid Waste Management has been a good neighbor to Conoy,” Steve says. “They’ve helped us go from a poor township to one that is able to operate more freely.”

Walking Through History

The 10-foot-wide trail, which sits atop what had once been the Pennsylvania Canal (1833-1860), features a paved surface. In places, it’s immediately adjacent to tracks used by the Norfolk Southern Railway. The trail winds its way through woodland that was once the hunting grounds of the Shenks Ferry Indians, who lived in the area from the 13th to 16th centuries. Sweeping river views take in landmarks such as a series of rapids called the Haldeman Riffles. Also of note is the Haldeman Mansion, which was the boyhood home of naturalist and philologist Samuel S. Haldeman. At one point, the trail transitions into a bridge, under which the Conoy Creek spills into the Susquehanna.

Beyond that you’ll spy the remains of a once-thriving industry that entailed the production of limestone and dolomite. In 1846 John Haldeman launched a limestone quarrying business. Farmers purchased the burned limestone for fertilizing, whitewashing and plastering purposes. Steel factories utilized the dolomite to remove impurities in the metal.

In 1895 the quarry was sold to John E. Baker and George Billmyer, who added limestone crushing to the business. A company town soon took root. Called Billmyer, the town eventually grew to 1,000 residents, due in part to the fact that dolomite was in high demand during World War I. Out of that demand, the White Cliffs of Conoy emerged. Waste material from the processing of the limestone and dolomite was dumped along the river banks. “We just might be the only recreation area in the country that’s built atop an industrial waste dump,” Steve says. The trail travels along what had been Billmyer’s Main Street. Remnants of the factory (razed and salvaged in 2004) and the town – row houses, a church, a school, a store and a post office – can still be seen. Like many company towns, Billmyer didn’t have the best reputation. Still, Steve and his brothers frequently passed through Billmyer on their way to the river. “It was one of those places that if you weren’t careful, you’d find yourself in trouble,” he recalls.

Steve reports that one of the quarry’s last employees, Norman Tyson, who just celebrated his 101st birthday, now lives near the trail’s Decatur Street access in Marietta. “He often rides the trail on his scooter,” Steve says.

Billmyer’s water-filled quarry, which until recently was home to the Bainbridge Sportsmen’s Club and the Bainbridge Scuba Center, has been sold to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority. The 93-acre parcel includes the 27-acre quarry. “I’d love to see it used in some recreational capacity,” Steve says.

Further downstream are a picnic grove and a clearing from which you can study eagle activity on an island in the river. A short walk then delivers you to Shocks Mill Bridge, an arched, stone, low-grade railroad bridge that was built in 1903. “It was critical to the war effort during both World Wars,” Steve says, noting that it served as this region’s Midwest connection to the East Coast. “Because of that, it was protected by armed guards during both wars,” Steve explains. In 1972, its center section was destroyed by Hurricane Agnes and was quickly replaced, enabling train traffic to continue using it. Today, it serves as a major route for transporting oil from North Dakota to points east. “It required some engineering to get the trail under and through the bridge area,” Steve remarks. “It took major cooperation and blessings among Conoy, LCSWMA, DEP, NCNR and Norfolk Southern.”

Priceless Benefits

Steve says the trail reflects the best of what government and private interests can achieve when they work together. He points to a 200-acre tract of land in East Donegal Township that was critical to the development of the trail. “We partnered with them to buy it,” he notes.

But, according to Steve, he derives the most satisfaction from seeing people use the trail. “We get visitors from all over the place, as far away as Minnesota,” he says of people he’s met over the last year. “And, it’s not just on weekends, but throughout the week. You see the same faces using it every morning and evening. I wish my mom and dad had lived long enough to see it,” he muses. He points out that last year’s frigid weather created a new venue for fans of winter sports. “We didn’t clear the path, so cross-country skiers used it, as did a person who has a dog sled.”

Local businesses are benefitting, too. “We installed bike racks, so people can leave their bikes if they want to walk over to the Bainbridge Inn or up to Gigi’s,” he says. “You know, one night I was down here, and the pavilion in the park was filled with people eating ice cream,” he says of Gigi’s specialty.

Kathy Wagner, who lives in Bainbridge and writes the Second Act column for this magazine, notices that bike riders are coming off the trail to explore the town. “A lot of people stop me to ask questions about our town,” she says. “I think it’s nice that they’re interested.”

Tags: Authority Projects · Community Recreation · In The News · Northwest Lancaster County River Trail · Trail Development

Explore Energy Island

August 13, 2015 ·

Tucked away on a small landmass, owned by LCSWMA, on the Susquehanna River is the primitive Energy Island campsite. Located behind LCSWMA’s Lancaster Waste-to-Energy Facility in Conoy Township, this campsite is part of the Susquehanna Water Trail and is the only campsite of its kind on the trail in Lancaster County.

Accessible only by boat, the Energy Island campsite features a cleared camping area, fire pit and charcoal grill. Campers are encouraged to document their stay in the guest book located near the entrance of the campsite.

LCSWMA built the campsite in 2012 for residents and visitors to enjoy Lancaster County’s beautiful environment, including the scenic Susquehanna River.

To locate the campsite, enter the GPS coordinates 40°04'01.4"N 76°38'34.7"W. River access is available five miles from the Falmouth Boat Launch (111 Collins Rd, Bainbridge, PA 17502) or 2 miles from the Bainbridge Boat Launch (40-58 S Front St, Bainbridge, PA 17502). 

Island shoreline. A perfect place to dock your boat, kayak or canoe for an evening of camping.

Entrance to the campsite. A log book is provided for guests to record their journey. 

Cleared campsite area, which can fit three to four tents. 

Fire pit and log seating. Chopped firewood is also available at the campsite for campers to use. 

Charcoal grill located at the edge of the campsite. 

View of the Susquehanna River from the campsite. 

Shock's Mill Bridge in the distance. 

The Susquehanna River. 

Tags: Community Recreation · Northwest Lancaster County River Trail · Trail Development · Waste-to-Energy

CGNA is County's New Nature Spot

June 08, 2015 ·

New Chestnut Grove Natural Area is county's newest, most unique nature spot
Photo and article by Ad Crable 

Click here to read this story online.

A prairie in Lancaster County?

A $1.2 million makeover of a River Hills farm has given Lancaster County its newest and one of its most unique natural areas.

The 170-acre Chestnut Grove Natural Area near the county landfill in the River Hills of Manor Township opened to the public Saturday after an intense three-year ecological restoration effort.

The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority owns the property south of Washington Boro and converted it to a passive recreation area as part of its mission of “community sustainability.”

The entrance with a 20-space parking area is located off Chestnut Grove  Road, near its intersection with River Road in the Highville area. The natural area is open seven days a week, dawn to dusk.

Though it offers many diverse natural features, and 4.5 miles of easy-walking trails, the undulating property’s main feel is some 85 acres of open grassland — thousands of native grasses and wildflowers swaying in the wind and buzzing with cabbage butterflies and the calls of red-winged blackbirds.

“It’s very unique for Lancaster County,” says Emily West, the authority’s environmental compliance manager who has watched the spot slowly spring to life. “There are not a lot of open native grass and wildflower areas in our region so it’s a great opportunity for hiking in terms of a lot of vistas.

“It has a little bit of everything for everybody.”

Not the least of which is a new 4.5-mile trail network that not only offers excellent views of wildlife, but also a new choice of circuit hikes in the area for county residents.

For example, there is a missing link for the Lancaster County Conservancy’s Turkey Hill Trail. You  can now hike from Turkey Hill all the way to the Lancaster County Conservancy’s Safe Harbor Nature Preserve, about 6.5 miles.

Just as welcome, the natural area trails connect to the highly popular Manor Township Enola Low Grade Rail-Trail that runs along the Susquehanna between Turkey Hill and Safe Harbor.

Now, you won’t have to walk up and back where the trail dead-ends at a closed railroad bridge. You can hike on a short but steep connector trail to enjoy the Chestnut Grove Natural Area network of trails and hike back to the Turkey Hill trailhead via the new section of the Turkey Hill Trail.

On an advance tour of the natural area several days ago, authority spokeswoman Katie Sandoe was stopped in her tracks by a foreign sound — the sussuring of wind blowing softly through grasses of various heights.

“It’s so peaceful,” she marveled.

Indeed, the wide open space does seem like a place removed from the rest of what you see in Lancaster County.

Attracted to its unique habitat already, a rare sandhill crane visited for several days in December. As we walked along, we saw an indigo bunting, bluebirds and heard a Baltimore oriole.

Wildlife observation is one goal of the restoration project.

The diversity of the site doesn’t stop with the prairie-like grasslands and wildflower meadows.

This ambitious ecological restoration project also features permanent and temporary wetlands, views of the Susquehanna, River Hills forest, streams, ponds and even a stand of American chestnuts, part of the Pennsylvania Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation’s effort to restore the great American tree to the landscape someday.

Elsewhere, about 30 acres of former farmland have been planted with trees and will be allowed to grow into a forest to connect with the surrounding River Hills woods that line the Susquehanna. The newly planted trees are enclosed inside fences 7.5-feet high so deer don’t eat them.

Some 4,350 native trees and shrubs have been planted, not to mention thousands of grasses and wildflowers grown from seed.

Once cornfields and pasture owned by the Barley family and its Star Rock Farms series of properties, the dairy farm was purchased by the authority for another crop: dirt.

Between 2011 and 2012, about 7 feet of dirt was removed from about 86 acres. The 1 million cubic yards of subsoil was stockpiled and will be used as part of the authority’s proposed vertical expansion of the nearby Frey Farm Landfill.

The authority hired an ecological consultant to work with the landfill’s open space committee to restore the site to a native habitat area.

The topsoil that had been scraped off was returned to the landscape and the restoration project began. An old stone springhouse is all that remains from the farm that once included a farmhouse and farm buildings.

Besides the farm, the 170 acres of the natural area includes smaller properties the authority has purchased through the years.

Wildflowers already are blooming, but give it a couple more weeks and the area will be even more colorful, says West.

Indeed, this is a landscape in its infancy; just the beginning of an ecological awakening.

The natural area will fill in over time, get more colorful and lush. But it will take tender loving care. Invasive plants will have to be weeded out. In the absence of bison and wild fires, the prairie-like fields will have to be mowed to goose growth.

This is not a wilderness area. A large power line passes through, there are several homes on the edges and the top of the active Frey Farm Landfill and a pair of wind turbines are visible.

But it is large and diverse and the look and sounds will offer a unique and peaceful experience for those who visit.

Tags: Authority Projects · Wildlife · Community Recreation · CGNA · In The News · Trail Development

Celebrate National Trails Day

June 05, 2015 ·

On Saturday, June 6, join LCSWMA for the Susquehanna Riverlands National Trails Day event at Riverfront Park to celebrate the completion of a section of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail from East Donegal Township to Bainbridge.

In addition, we will also celebrate the completion of the 330’ Shock’s Mill River Walkway. The walkway connects a two mile section of trail between Bainbridge and East Donegal Township, which opened to the public in November of 2014. Previously, these two sections of the trail abruptly ended at an impasse with no way around Shock’s Mill Bridge. Now pedestrians and cyclists can enjoy the trail continuously from Decatur Street in Marietta to Riverfront Park in Bainbridge, a distance of 6.5 miles

Other event activities include the dedication of artful benches and a mosaic tile mural designed by Donegal Intermediate School students and a trail bike ride with local physicals to promote the health benefits of parks and trails.

The rain or shine celebration will begin at 11 a.m.

National Trails Day is an initiative of the American Hiking Society and is dedicated to the celebration of America’s Trail System. 



Tags: Community Events · Community Recreation · Northwest Lancaster County River Trail · Trail Development

Interpretive Panels Installed on the NWLCRT

January 21, 2015 ·

We are excited to share a new addition coming to the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail (NWLCRT)!  Residents and visitors can now enjoy a series of interpretive panels at various points along the trail. The panels highlight the natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources along the Susquehanna River, with topics including:

-Native American Heritage
-The Language of Science (Samuel Haldeman)
-Industrial Heritage (Billmeyer Quarry)
-Transforming Waste to Energy
-Bald Eagles
-Shock’s Mill Bridge
-Revitalizing Local Wetlands
-Vinegar’s Ferry
-Decatur Street

Five of the nine total panels have already been installed. They include panels depicting Native American Heritage, The Language of Science, Industrial Heritage, Transforming Waste to Energy and Bald Eagles. The remaining panels will be placed along the trail this spring and summer.

LCSWMA, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resource (PA DCNR), Susquehanna Riverlands and the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area (SGHA), worked with local historians to create the panels.

The NWLCRT is a 14.25-mile, multi-purpose, public recreation trail that passes through five municipalities: Columbia, West Hempfield Township, Marietta Borough, East Donegal Township and Conoy Township. Parts of the trail are also owned by LCSWMA.

Native American Heritage: Panel located on the west side of the trail, facing the Susquehanna River, north of the Conoy Creek Bridge.

Close-up of the Native American History panel. Click the photo to enlarge. 

The Language of Science: Panel located on the west side of the trail facing the Haldeman Mansion, south of the Conoy Creek Bridge. 

Close-up of The Language of Science panel. Click the photo to enlarge. 

Industrial Heritage: Panel located on the east side of the trail facing the remains of Billmeyer Quarry. 

Close-up of the Industrial Heritage panel. Click the photo to enlarge. 

Transforming Waste to Energy: Panel located on the east side of the trail facing LCSWMA's Waste-to-Energy Facility.

Close-up of the Transforming Waste to Energy panel. Click the photo to enlarge. 

Bald Eagles: Panel located on the west side of the trail facing the bald eagle nest and Susquehanna River, in the vicinity of LCSWMA's Waste-to-Energy Facility. 

Close-up of the Bald Eagle panel. Click the photo to enlarge. 

Tags: Authority Projects · Community Recreation · Northwest Lancaster County River Trail · Trail Development