Study of Switchback Gravity Railroad Proposal for Mt. Pisgah Launched - public input sought
As of 08/27/07, the long awaited feasibility study of the Foundation’s Mt. Pisgah Project Proposal is underway.
(JIM THORPE) The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (D&L), the National Park Service (NPS), and the Switchback Gravity Railroad Foundation (SGRF) are pleased to announce they have entered into an agreement to conduct a joint study of the historic Mt. Pisgah site of the former Switchback Gravity Railroad in the Borough of Jim Thorpe. The three organizations are pooling their technical resources to conduct the study, which will review and evaluate the proposal for the Mt. Pisgah site by the Switchback Gravity Railroad Foundation. The study will emphasize community conversations that will provide invaluable public input on the SGRF proposals.
The non-profit Switchback Gravity Railroad Foundation (SGRF) proposes rebuilding a portion of the historic Switchback Gravity Railroad on Mt. Pisgah plane and summit for the enjoyment of visitors and locals alike. Mt. Pisgah’s scenic vistas are spectacular, and the SGRF hopes to make those views accessible to the general public and to interpret the historic sites on Mt. Pisgah.
The Switchback Gravity Railroad, built in 1827, was America’s second oldest railroad. Built to haul coal from the mines at Summit Hill to the Lehigh river and canal in Mauch Chunk, now Jim Thorpe, this engineering marvel became one of the most visited attractions in the country during the 19th century, second only to Niagara Falls as a destination. The 18 mile roundtrip ride was closed in 1933, and equipment was sold for scrap in 1937.
Although Mt. Pisgah still stands proudly over the town of Jim Thorpe, only remnants of the historic Switchback’s inclined plane and summit operations exist today. The goal of the SGRF’s “Pisgah Project” is to preserve, enhance, and interpret the historic site and to create access to the summit for the general public.
The current SGRF proposal has two phases. Phase One includes work to stabilize and interpret the historic resources that remain. It will also include improvements to the old ‘Wagon Road’ located nearby for hiking, biking, and limited vehicular access to the summit for maintenance and security.
During Phase Two, the SGRF proposes the installation of a cable and rail system on the Mt. Pisgah plane that will transport a special passenger car up and down the plane. Visitors would be bused between the base of Mt. Pisgah plane and the Carbon County parking lot along the river. Additionally, the SGRF proposes reconstruction of the engine house, trestle, and an observation tower at the summit of the plane. More information on the SGRF proposal is available on this web site: switchbackgravityrr.org.
The goal of the current study is to share the SGRF’s proposals with the public, determine its viability, seek public input on the proposal, and how to best commemorate and create access to the sites on Mt. Pisgah. The study will examine the potential impact of developing the site, the physical enhancements needed to access the plane and summit, the preservation, conservation and interpretation of resources, and the future and sustainability of the railroad sites on Mt. Pisgah. A variety of options to allow visitor access to the views from the summit will be considered as a part of the study.
John Drury, Executive Director of the Switchback Gravity Railroad Foundation, stated, “This public-private partnership will help the Foundation realize its goal of creating a unique visitor experience on Mt. Pisgah.”
Dale Freudenberger, Heritage Project Manager for the D&L National Heritage Corridor will be managing the study process on behalf of the team. Freudenberger commented, “We want to notify the public that this study is underway and we will be looking to the public and stakeholders for their input and ideas during this process. Public participation is the most important part of this process.”
Joe DiBello, Chief, Conservation and Recreation Assistance for the Northeast region of the National Park Service added, “The National Park Service, at the request of the D&L, has been engaged because of its expertise in planning and community involvement.”
Over the next two months, representatives of the three organizations will meet with residents, elected officials, organizations, and other interested stakeholders to share more details of the proposal and ask for their input. Letters will be sent to key stakeholders who have been identified by the study team, inviting a representative of each group to meet with the Study Team to offer their views.
Following the initial stakeholder meetings, a public workshop meeting will be conducted in Jim Thorpe in September or October. Notice of the meeting will be advertised through the local news media. The workshop will provide an opportunity for an expanded dialogue about the SGRF proposals and an opportunity to hear from the general public.
For more information, contact:
Dale Freudenberger at 610-377-4063,
Joe DiBello at 215-597-1581, or
John Drury at 570-325-4436,