WILKES-BARRE — State Sen. John Yudichak will make good on his pledge.
At a news conference Feb. 1 regarding the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, Yudichak made a bold statement.
He said if his beloved Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII — which they did on Sunday, Feb. 4 — he would walk and bike the 165-mile D&L Trail.
The time is coming soon for Yudichak to fulfill his promise.
Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, will begin his journey May 8 in Bristol, Bucks County, and will (eventually) end up in Wilkes-Barre along the River Common.
How long will that take?
“Well, it took the Eagles 52 years to win the Super Bowl,” Yudichak quipped Thursday.
Jokes aside, Yudichak actually expects the trek to be completed in stages through Monday, May 21.
Yudichak met with the Times Leader Editorial Board this week to talk about the trail and his determined effort to help raise awareness and funding to complete the few remaining holes in the route. He and Elissa Garofalo, president/executive director of the D&L National Heritage Corridor, talked about closing those gaps, including a section in Luzerne County.
Garofalo said the mission is to preserve the historic pathway, which carried coal and iron from Wilkes-Barre to the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and New York over a network of railroads and canals.
Today, Garofalo said, the D&L Trail connects people to the region’s industrial heritage, economic development and nature.
Garofalo explained that the D&L Corridor has occupied a special place in American history for centuries — unique in its combination of industry and natural resources that made the region a cradle of the nation’s industrial revolution.
She said innovative entrepreneurs produced iron, coal, slate, cement, zinc, and textiles throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, transforming the region.
“The Delaware and Lehigh Canals transported hundreds of tons worth of goods to New York and Philadelphia, fueling industry and creating jobs — a legacy the D&L works to preserve and celebrate,” Garofalo said.
According to information on the D&L website, Bethlehem Steel grew from a modest iron producer to one of the most lucrative businesses in the U.S. Notably, it provided steel for the George Washington, Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges, submarines, Madison Square Garden, aircraft carriers and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. These projects further brought international acclaim to the corridor.
In February, Yudichak attended a news conference with Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and representatives of the D&L regarding an investment to support a new section of the trail.
Announced in December 2017, the funding will support the development of almost 5 miles of trail in Laurel Run Borough and Fairview and Hanover townships. The trail would stretch from the Mountain Top Trailhead in Fairview Township to East Northampton Street, Laurel Run Borough.
Specifically, the $84,000 grant will cover design work such as drawings, specifications, and related documents.
Yudichak said heritage tourism creates jobs and adds to the quality of life.
Garofalo, executive director of the D&L National Heritage Corridor, said the trail in Luzerne County is steadily progressing toward completion.
“We’re close,” Garofalo said about closing the remaining gaps. “We hope to have the entire trail connected by 2022.”
Yudichak said the D&L trail, once completed, will be the longest recreational trail in Pennsylvania.
The lawmaker also noted he has been training for the 165-mile hike and bike. His plan is to walk 10 miles one day and bike 20 miles the following day, alternating day-to-day until he gets to Wilkes-Barre.
“We’ll be ready,” a confident Yudichak said. “This is a special trail. And this year marks the 250th anniversary of anthracite coal mining. So this will offer me an opportunity to tell that story as I travel the trail.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.