My family and I love a good rail trail, and these days there are more than a dozen to choose from in Lancaster County. Many of them were years in the making – from concept to their final phases of completion. Just recently, two of my favorite trails finally converged to create the Warwick to Ephrata Rail-Trail (WERT).
The trail sits on an abandoned stretch of the former Reading & Columbia rail line. This month marks the 155th anniversary of the completion of that rail line. To commemorate the achievement, a passenger train carrying officials and invited guests steamed across Lancaster and Berks counties for the first time on March 15, 1864.
Over the past 20-plus years, the components of the trail have slowly but surely been inching their way outward from the towns of Lititz and Ephrata. This essentially created two separate trails; the plan was for them to connect at the Cocalico Creek, where an old railroad bridge was waiting to be repaired.
As with many rail-to-trail projects, bridges can sometimes be very costly to repair. So, it’s not unusual for construction to begin on the trail before work commences on the bridges. Last summer, Dan Zimmerman, who serves as the township manager for Warwick Township, and has been a WERT supporter since 1994, set forth a promise to the WERT Committee that it would be possible to cross the bridge before January 1 arrived. Keeping that promise, the bridge opened to pedestrians for the first time on December 31, 2018. Now, with the completion of the bridge, visitors can walk, run or ride along that same path and try to imagine that first train ride long ago.
Personally, I find it very exciting to see more rail trails reaching completion and safely connecting pedestrians to nature, as well as neighboring towns. On parts of this trail, you’ll find yourself strolling through the boroughs of Lititz, Ephrata and Akron, and then, just a few miles farther, you’ll pass through beautiful country pastures. Along the way, there are plenty of historical sites to see, as well as locally owned shops, restaurants and produce stands that are only a short walk from the trail. Everything about this trail makes it an ideal way to spend the day.
Currently, the trail runs just over 7.5 miles through the three aforementioned boroughs, as well as Ephrata and Warwick townships. Downloadable maps of the trail are available online and show available parking, rest stops, points of interest and more. The map will also help indicate which portions of the trail are currently paved and unpaved.
For a map and more details about the trail, visit the Warwick Regional Recreation Commission website at warwickrecreation.org/trails/wert. You’ll also find a link to information about the Lititz Bikeworks ride-share program and bike rentals. See you out on the trail!