Miles of Smiles: Lackawanna Heritage Valley marks 25 years


James and Joan Kryzanowski bike the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Trail as often as four times per week.

“It just gives us a such a wonderful feeling,” said the 60-year-old Mrs. Kryzanowski, who has lived in Scranton her entire life. “It’s very therapeutic.”

The slim and tan couple have always been very active, but since the Scranton portion of the trail opened, they use it so frequently they often recognize fellow regulars. Recently, they were pleasantly surprised to pass a couple using motorized wheelchairs on the paved path.

“It’s a big asset,” said Mr. Kryzanowski, 62, as he and his wife sat on their bikes on a trail section near Elm Street in South Scranton.

The trail, while the most well-known, is just one part of the Lackawanna Heritage Valley National and State Heritage Area.

It includes educational efforts and plans to transform places like the monstrous Iron Furnaces in downtown Scranton, where the city churned out the essential metal 150 years ago, and the once-crumbling Olyphant High School, reborn as housing for seniors, some of whom had attended classes there decades ago.

The Lackawanna Heritage Valley touts itself as an organization that tells the region’s stories through restored land, historic buildings and the trail, which runs along the rail line and the Lackawanna River — the essential arteries which once brought life here.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this month, the organization has transformed Lackawanna County and has plans to do much more.

‘Exploded like popcorn’

The idea for a heritage sites program had been kicked around for awhile within the now-defunct state Department of Community Affairs.

In the early 1990s, Midvalley native and the deputy secretary of the department Ray Angeli and his staff shifted the idea from a tourist program to a development one, which the area could use to promote and improve itself.

Gov. Robert P. Casey greenlighted the project, creating the state’s heritage parks program. Now, 12 different areas like the Allegheny Ridge Heritage Area and the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor have sprouted and grown across the state.

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