A Brief History of the Work of the Capital Area Greenbelt Association
City Beautiful Movement
Efforts towards creating the Greenbelt first began about 100 years ago with the City Beautiful Movement. Cities at the time were heavily polluted, sanitation very poor, and pubic parks and open space scarce. The City Beautiful Movement was an effort to improve living conditions across the nation’s cities, and in Harrisburg one of many improvements planned was the creation of a “parkway”, a linear park around the city. Portions of the parkway were completed, but fell in to disrepair over the years.
Completing the Greenbelt
In 1990 the Bureau of Forestry approached the City of Harrisburg with the idea of completing the parkway (“Greenbelt”), through grants and funds other than tax dollars. The City was supportive but wanted the cooperation of other surrounding jurisdictions, including the Boroughs of Paxtang and Penbrook, Swatara and Susquehanna Townships, and Dauphin County, since the proposed route would cross all those lines. A series of meetings was held to solicit input from local jurisdictions and from various state and local resource management agencies. A plan was developed using funds from a U.S. Forest Service grant, and volunteers were enlisted to begin work restoring the existing segments of the original parkway.
Ongoing Care and Maintenance
Volunteer labor removed hundreds of tires and literally tons of other debris dumped at various points along the trail. Impenetrable brush which had almost completely obliterated the parkway road surface in places was removed, along with fallen trees and litter. Local municipalities have assisted with trash removal and with the use of equipment. An Appalachian trail style pedestrian bridge was constructed and a trail spur linking a neighboring community to the Greenbelt was rerouted to correct a drainage problem, and the new trail was resurfaced with wood chips. A thorough cleanup of Spring Creek, which parallels the trail, has been conducted each summer. Other portions of the trail have been and continue to be re-routed to avoid streets where ever possible. Footbridges are maintained, a portion of the Paxtang Parkway has been re-surfaced, and a new bridge redirects the trail as it follows underneath Rte I-83 beside a Spring House in Paxtang Borough. There is a new crossing over the railroad tracks in South Harrisburg. The surface was restored at a dangerous crosswalk in Reservoir park and new signage has been installed along the entire trail.
The Capital Area Greenbelt Association was formed in 1991. The Association serves as a liaison between all parties: the various local jurisdictions, service organizations, the business community, and resource management agencies.