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201st RED HORSE praised for work on rail-trail

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Susan Penning
  • 193rd SOW Public Affairs
During a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony, members of the 201st RED HORSE were lauded by Congressional and local community leaders for the squadron's help in building a 3/4-mile section of recreational trail in Lebanon, Pa.

RED HORSE Airmen completed the rough grading, earthwork and asphalt paving of a portion of the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail from 9th to Chestnut streets. According to key people involved with the project, the contributions made by RED HORSE troops created a win-win for Pennsylvania and the Air National Guard.

Using the expertise, manpower and equipment of the 201st RED HORSE saved us about $70,000 on this project, said Tom Kotay from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

"This project allowed us to not only give back to our communities, but also to test our wartime skills in a field environment," said Col. Blake Uhl, 201st RED HORSE commander.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources representative, Lori Yeich, echoed Kotay's and Colonel Uhl's sentiments, explaining the importance of creating and maintaining recreational trails for the public.

We are thrilled that Pennsylvania is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation with the highest number of trails, Yeich said.

"There are so many reasons why we support projects like this. For example, these trails have brought us $900,000 in tourism spending. They are also attractive to home buyers, increasing our property values and tax base. And they tend to draw a more highly skilled, knowledgeable workforce," she said. "Plus they are an investment in the health of our citizens. It is estimated that for every $1 we invest in trails, we reap a savings of $3 in healthcare expenses."

Rail-trails are multi-purpose public paths created from former railroad corridors. Most often flat or following a gentle grade, they traverse urban, suburban and rural America. They are ideal for bicycling, walking, inline skating, cross-country skiing, equestrian and wheelchair use. In recent years, rail-trails have become increasingly popular as recreation and transportation corridors.

According to information from the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C., rail-trails create healthier places for healthier people. They also serve as wildlife conservation and historical preservation areas. And they stimulate local economies by increasing tourism and promoting local business.