Neighborhood residents and city officials gathered at the newly-completed Hayes Street Plaza to officially open the first two sections of the South Bethlehem Greenway Thursday morning, a project that has taken Bethlehem nearly six years to complete.
“We haven't had to tell anyone,” Mayor John Callahan said. “The community is already using it.”
Joined by officials from PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, who financially supported the city improvement project, Callahan thanked them and their agencies, along with a long list of other elected officials, organizations, city employees and individuals who helped further the project, along with “every single resident who attended a public hearing or filled out a survey to better help us plan.”
“This really is a project for the community,” Callahan added.
Cindy Dunn, Deputy Secretary of the DCNR, which contributed $1.5 million toward the Greenway project, attributed the project's success to teamwork between the city and state agencies.
“This work doesn't get done easily or fast or alone,” Dunn said. This work takes vision. You set up the vision and then you plug away.”
She added the 1.7-mile trail will eventually connect with others in the area, allowing access by foot or bicycle to Lower Saucon and then to Hellertown.
Phase 3 of the project is already under way and is projected to be complete by fall of this year. It will extend the trail another 1,500 feet and include improvements to the existing Parham Park in the 300 block of W. Fourth Street, possibly providing outdoor performance space near the Touchstone Theater, the mayor said.
Phase 4, which will link from E. Sixth Street to Saucon Park, is expected to follow by next year.
“The ultimate goal is to get all these trails linked together,” Callahan said, adding that he personally jogs on the Greenway regularly.
The trails will also help encourage economic growth, he said, noting the new PNC Bank across the street has pedestrian access, and encourage exercise and healthy living.
To ensure people feel safe and discourage criminal activity, city police on bicycles and horseback will regularly patrol the pedestrian walkway
“South Side is a far safer community than people give it credit for,” Callahan said.