Actually a network of trails, the Jonathan Eshenour Memorial Trail is a paved, multi-use greenway that zigzags across Derry Township, a municipality in southeast Dauphin County best known for the town of Hershey, aka "Chocolatetown USA." Although the trail does not connect to the area's most famous attraction, Hersheypark, it does pass near downtown Hershey, with its huge chocolate factory, passes the campus of the Milton Hershey School, skirts the perimeter of the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and ends near Indian Echo Caverns.
In addition to connecting most of the area's prominent attractions, the trail has numerous amenities, including benches, "mutt mits" for dog walkers, picnic tables and intepretive signage. Gazebos, small gardens and other decorative features also line the trail, providing a very pleasant experience. However, the most striking feature of the trail is the diverse number of environments that it crosses during its relatively short, 13-mile route. The eastern and western ends of the trail near Palmdale and Hummelstown, respectively, have a rural character, and passing through open fields and quaint farms. This bucolic landscape gives way to suburban development as one approaches Hershey. A signed route along local streets guides users through a small gap in a residential subdivision west of Route 743. Here, users have the option of taking a branch trail south parallel to Route 743.
The trail resumes on the eastern edge of the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and follows Route 322 around the northern perimeter of the massive hospital. Numerous businesses, as well as the Hershey Convention Center, are located directly across Route 322 on this section, and the "thwak thwak thwak" of Medevac Helicopters landing and taking off is also frequently heard.
A second branch trail that extends south from Bullfrog Valley Park treats users to another environment. Constructed on a long-abandoned railroad grade, this trail passes through lush woodlands, with the sounds of running water from nearby creeks always present. Rock cuts that were constructed for the railroad can be seen just east of Shank Park. The trail divides again at Shank Park, and users can either follow a spur to the park's athletic fields, concession stand, restroom faciltiies with flush toilets and parking lot, or continue through another subdivision to Waltonville Road. The presence of numerous yard decorations, bushes and gardens on this final section demonstrate how residents of this development have embraced the trail, which could be cited as a selling point for other trail projects that face oppostion from skeptical landowners.
With its superb, well-planned construction, the Jonathan Eshenour Memorial Trail is a great example of how a greenway network can tie a community together. The long-term potential exists for connections to Hersheypark, the Horseshoe Trail, the Capital Area Greenbelt and possibly even the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail, making the Jonathan Eshenour Memorial Trail an important link in a future network for the Harrisburg Metropolitan area.