"Welcome to PA" Highlands Trail Celebration A Great Success: The Highlands Trail is Officially in PA!

On Saturday, May 16th over a 100 celebration attendees headed to the Riegelsville Toll-Supported Bridge in Riegelsville, NJ and PA to welcome the Highlands Trail into PA. AMC, NYNJTC, and the Borough of Riegelsville co-hosted the Highlands Trail Celebration to honor the near completion of the 150-mile Highlands Trail into PA from NJ and NY.

The celebration began on the NJ side of the Delaware River with a
welcoming from the NYNJTC's NJ Regional Representative, Brenda Holzinger. Gary Haugland, Highlands Trail Chair for the NYNJTC, and JoAnn Dolan, previous NYNJTC Executive Director, proceeded recognizing the many volunteers who made the Highlands Trail possible in NY and NJ. Frank G. McCartney, Executive Director of the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission also recognized the efforts of the NYNJTC and AMC on the Highlands Trail and expressed the Commission's support of the project. The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has made it possible for the Highlands Trail to come into Pennsylania by giving official permission for the Highlands Trail to traverse the Riegelsville Toll-Supported Bridge to cross over the Delaware River into Riegelsville, PA.

The Highlands Trail was then welcomed into PA with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Riegelsville Toll-Supported Bridge where the NJ and PA border meets in the middle of the Delaware River.

The excited crowd continued their hike across the bridge stepping into Riegelsville, PA to be welcomed by the Borough Council's Vice President, Kathleen Weiss. The Borough of Riegelsville has been very supportive of the Highlands Trail and has been a great partner.

Jennifer Heisey, AMC Mid-Atlantic Recreation Planner, welcomed the Highlands Trail into PA with great joy as Riegelsville, PA is the gateway into the PA Highlands. She stated that "Many of you who are here today are responsible for making the Highlands Trail happen in New Jersey and New York. And many of you who are here today will be responsible for making it happen in Pennsylvania." Jennifer continued to state the importance of community residents getting involved in the planning process of the Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania. AMC is currently in the process of community outreach and collaboratively planning the trail route in Upper Bucks and Northampton Counties.

Representative Marguerite Quinn, after just coming from a River Clean-up, also spoke about the Highlands Trail being welcomed in Bucks County, PA and gave her support of making it happen. Another speaker that the celebration was honored to have was Diane Kripas, PA DCNR Division Chief - Greenways & Conservation Partnerships Division. She grew up in Bucks County and is experienced with the beginnings of new trails in PA. Diane expressed DCNR's support and gave encouraging words for making the Highlands Trail happen in PA.
Following the speakers AMC and the Borough of Riegeslville unveiled the "Welcome to Riegelsville/Highlands Trail" sign. It is located on the newly constructed footbridge that crosses into Riegelsville and over the Delaware Canal Towpath. This is a great example of a blooming partnership between AMC and Bucks County's Riegelsville community. This also marks the beginning of the Highlands Trail in PA with the goal of traversing across Upper Bucks County and Lower Northampton County to Green Lane Park in Montgomery County. Then continuing west throughout the PA Highlands. A possiblity may be co-aligning with a proposed walking path in Riegelsville then heading west or co-aligning with the Delaware Canal Towpath heading north or south and then west towards Nockamixon State Park and/or Quakertown.

The celebration continued at the Borough park with a light lunch catered by Riegelsville's Figtree Market & Catering. Every last ounce of food and drink was devoured. Many attendees also put in bids on silent auction items. A big thank you to the local retailers who donated items to support the Highlands Trail: The Durham Road Gallery, Frey's Better Foods, Genesis Bicycles, Golden Scissors, and Saucon Valley Bikes. The silent auction was a success!

AMC and Wildlands Conservancy also unveiled a set of 23 PA Highlands hiking cards called "Hike the Highlands". These are now available to the public and can be found on-line at www.outdoors.org/hikethehighlands

Nearing the end of the celebration at 2pm folks gathered with volunteer AMC trip leaders to disperse for their afternoon hikes and Delaware Canal State Park's paddling demonstrations. A family-friendly 3-mile hike was led at Natural Land Trust's Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary. A 9-mile hike was also led at Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary ending at The Riegelsville Inn for dinner. A backpacking trip on the Highlands Trail in New Jersey also followed the celebration.

AMC, would like to thank everyone who made this celebration a success. Especially a big THANK YOU to the NJ and PA Celebration speakers, local retailers, supporters, and our volunteers. Many volunteers made the celebration possible by coming early to set-up, direct participants, manage the PA System, clean-up, and lead hikes and paddling demonstrations. We would also like to express our thanks to our co-hosts, NYNJTC and the Borough of Riegelsville, for helping to make everything come together.

*Stay tuned for a "Welcome to PA" Highlands Trail Celebration slide show. It will be available shortly.

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