Harrisburg's “Emerald Necklace” will soon get new jewels. Hundreds of signs will be installed next month along the Capital Area Greenbelt.
Singing birds, buzzing bees and trickling water strumming over rocks can be heard while walking along the Capital Area Greenbelt. Many took time Thursday to enjoy the sounds of spring, especially after a harsh winter.
Dick Norford, a bicycling enthusiast, spent his morning taking in the brisk winds through his hair while riding his trusty Trek bike. Norford, who is involved in several bike organizations, loves to spread the Greenbelt gospel.
“We're so fortunate in Harrisburg to have this beautiful emerald necklace that just runs around our city,” he said.
In recent years, many have beckoned the call to be outdoors and attempted to travel the 20 mile loop. However, Norford explained would often talk about a single continuous problem.
“It's not very well signed,” he said. “Some people have complained that…we love to ride on the Greenbelt, it's beautiful, but we don't always know exactly where to go.”
There are roughly 150 signs that currently adorn the Greenbelt. Many are rusted, faded, or just plain hard to see given the white background.
Norford said more than 600 brand new bright-green signs will be installed next month. On May 15, there will be a ceremony to install the first sign at Front Street and Walnut Street near the foot bridge. The sign will mark Mile 0.
Carl Dickson, Director of Dauphin County Parks and Recreation, said $47,500 was raised through various grants and donations. The largest contributions came from ArcelorMittal ($12,000) and Stabler Foundation ($10,000).
The new signs are part of a bigger improvement plan, “Building a Better Greenbelt: Signs, Safety, and a Riverfront Link to Fort Hunter”. Within the next two years, $2 million will be spent to overhaul several busy intersections along the Greenbelt.
“Greenbelts are being built all across the country at huge expense,” said Dickson. “Harrisburg has one already. But, we can just fix it up and bring it to modern day standards.”
To help compete for state and federal funds, Norford help combine midstate bike clubs and started, Bicycle South Central Pennsylvania. He said more than 2 million cyclists are a part of this group. He said about a dollar per rider, it's cash well spent on a sizeable population that uses clean fuel.
“The energy I burn off this bicycle is replenishable,” said Norford.
Dickson said the cycling community also builds stronger neighbor relationships.
“It's more economical, more efficient,” he said. “And, it's a more friendly community.”
Capital Area Greenbelt Association invites people to make friends the weekend of May 17 and 18 to help install some of the signs. Municipalities and PennDOT will make sure the signs are hung according to code, but volunteers are needed to help some of the off-road paths.
“When you've got a community that's more inviting to bike riding and walking, ya know, it's just a better place to live, a better place to work, and a better place to play,” Norford said.