A couple issues on the local scene are on my mind this week ... which I will get to after mentioning the passing of Sen. John McCain. Many of the network and cable news stations have covered his life and death almost constantly these past several days. I’m not so sure McCain would have appreciated the over-the-top coverage. However, he certainly would have loved the thorn in the side such coverage is to the current resident of the White House.
Of all the accolades accorded the late senator, the most important in this age of hyper-partisanship is his ability to work with the “other” side. In his book “The Restless Wave,” McCain noted that — in what turned out to be his last campaign — his opponent criticized him for compromising with Democrats in Congress. He was very proud of that supposed flaw in his character and went on to argue that compromise is exactly what this country needs when people are measured by what candidate or platform they support.
McCain was also just a proud American. He loved this country and saw the positives as far outweighing the negatives. He pointed anyone reading his book to the great things we have accomplished over the course of our history as a nation. He strongly felt that through all this country has done, we stand head and shoulders above those nations which seek to debase and degrade our ideals. Reading McCain’s book was a wonderful respite from the air about the current White House which casts us in a darker light and would have us groveling and conniving on the dirty floor of international politics with the likes of Vladimir Putin.
John McCain will be missed.
Back at home, the Union County commissioners recently announced the county will seek to take over maintenance and development of the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail. Great news! On a recent ride with my wife I was struck by the Jumanji-esque appearance through portions of the trail. Vines and branches are encroaching and narrowing the trail at times, to one bike rider’s width. Any improvement of the trail would be welcomed, but not all suggested uses may be appropriate. When it was announced a 2 percent increase in the hotel room tax would fund Rail Trail improvements, some articles suggested the trail will be popular for walkers, bikers and skateboard/roller blade riders.
I’m not sure skateboards would be welcomed. If you’ve ever done the trail you would find young mothers walking or jogging while pushing strollers, senior citizens walking or riding bikes, competitive and recreational runners putting in their miles, and folks of all ages strolling through the valley’s scenic landscapes. Skateboarders usually participate on a more — shall we say — daredevilish level. I hope there aren’t plans to pave the entire length and invite those among us not content with motoring along in a straight line. Stunts performed on skateboards should be confined to the safe haven of skate parks or rinks. The packed gravel surfaces are fine for the majority of people using this non-motorized byway.
More local to me is the connecting road running by my community: William Penn Drive. Running in a westerly direction from Route 15 just south of BZ Motors, William Penn drive connects motorists and bikers with Airport Road and eventually Route 192. This usually quiet country road has taken on more importance with the arrival a couple years ago of the new Lewisburg Area High School on Newman Road. Interestingly, especially in light of the rather inexperienced drivers now making use of the road, it has no speed limit signs between 15 and Newman Road. So young drivers get no visual warnings as they turn into William Penn Drive and cross paths with the ever busier JPM Road, the entrance to a small community of mostly senior citizens, and Newman Road. Believe me, the 35 mile-per-hour limit is not often adhered to the entire length of William Penn Drive.
As the LAHS property is further developed, traffic will certainly increase and speeding will become more of an issue. Additionally, people traveling to the Lewisburg Farm Market on Wednesdays use William Penn as a shortcut. Many motorists frustrated by the increased truck traffic slowing Route 15 through Lewisburg cut off the highway to reach places south of town and avoid lines of tractor trailers at the five lights between Hospital Drive and Route 45/Market Street. Kelly Township should work with Penn DOT to add speed limit signage at the very beginning of William Penn so that drivers monitor their speed and the intersections of JPM Road, Willowbrook Blvd., and Newman Road remain safe and navigable for all of us who frequent these locations.
Planning for the future in Kelly Township and Union County in general has never been a strong point. Now more than ever, as we look forward to the completion of the Route 99 Thruway, local authorities should put their minds together and leave behind their parochial interests to make the Susquehanna Valley a better place to live and enjoyable place to visit. With Union County taking over the Rail Trail there are signs real planning may actually happen. We can always hope.
Mike Tischio is a freelance columnist living in Union County. To comment, simply email email@example.com.