THE ISSUE

The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail has an additional 49 acres of newly preserved land in Conoy Township that will be maintained as a free public nature preserve. Another highlight that just opened on the trail is the 5-acre Falmouth Forest Garden, which includes 20 plants that will produce a variety of crops, along with native herbs and wildflowers.

Another day, another piece of good news about a Lancaster County trail.

We could be forgiven for starting to take our burgeoning variety of walking, hiking and biking trails for granted. Progress on completion of major river and rail trails has surged in recent years, and now the choices are myriad for anyone who wants to experience the beauty of the outdoors up close and personal.

There are trails in every section of the county — along the Susquehanna River, along converted rail beds, in forests, wetlands and meadows — even in the suburbs.

Some are short and some are long, including the Enola Low Grade Trail, which is 23 miles.

Basically, there’s something for everyone, even if you use a wheelchair.

In October 2016, LNP’s Ad Crable wrote about the work being done on the 7-mile Warwick to Ephrata Rail Trail, the Enola Low Grade Trail and the 11-mile Northwest Lancaster County River Trail. And he mentioned something we think is important to remember: These projects “were mere pipe dreams 25 years ago.”

And look where they are now.

One LNP reader hopes the recently completed Warwick to Ephrata Rail Trail even produces a little friendly competition. In a June 6 letter, Daniel Allwine wrote:

“I grew up in Lititz but now live in the Ephrata area, and I am well aware of the rivalry between these two towns, especially in high school sports, so here is my challenge: Anyone who has biked or walked this trail obviously can see how much better the Ephrata section is. Its whole section is paved, lit for nighttime use, has way more parking and bathroom areas, more benches, and a tunnel under the heavily traveled Route 272. And you can be on the Ephrata section until 11 p.m.

“The Warwick section is mostly gravel that gets ruts and stays wet after a rain, is not lit for night use so you have to be off at dusk (which is 5 p.m. in the winter). ... So my challenge is for the Warwick side to try to compete with the Ephrata side to make a really great trail.”

When LNP’s Sunday magazine asked readers what they love right now about Lancaster County, its trails made the list. Pat Vogel, of Marietta, wrote: “Living in the beautiful farmland of East Donegal Township, walking down Vinegar Ferry Road to River Front Park and enjoying the beautiful view of the Susquehanna River. The wildlife is amazing. … Walking the trail, we see the old Shocks Mill Bridge spanning the river and then the white cliffs overlooking the Susquehanna.”

The 49 acres north of Bainbridge that are now part of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail were acquired by the Lancaster County Conservancy for $310,000 as part of a partnership with the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority.

The acquisition came less than two years after the waste authority’s purchase of 119 acres of forest and agricultural land from Talen Generation for $1.51 million. The authority bought the land with the intent of selling a portion of it along the trail to the conservancy once funding was secured, LNP’s Junior Gonzalez reported.

Conoy Township Supervisor Steve Mohr said such acquisitions are part of a vision he and others at the township had nearly 40 years ago to preserve local forested areas.

“Nothing irritated me more than a no trespassing sign,” he told Gonzalez.

Meanwhile, the Falmouth Forest Garden is believed to be the first forest garden on publicly accessible natural lands in Pennsylvania, according to conservancy officials. It will produce fruits and nuts, including black walnuts, hazelnuts, persimmons, pawpaws and serviceberries.

“Good luck getting any of that before the animals,” joked Brandon Tennis, the conservancy’s director of stewardship.

Township and county officials have done a fine job in working with partners such as the conservancy to make these trails, preserves and gardens a reality.

Because of their hard work and foresight, current and future generations should get to enjoy these scenic byways for years to come.