Converting rails to trails takes army of volunteers
April 4, 2015 12:00 AM
In 2012, volunteers decked and railed a trestle in New Bethlehem on the Redbank Valley Trail.
By Lawrence Walsh / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Volunteers are the life blood of rail-trail organizations.
And Jim Mayuric of Armstrong County, a 60-year-old avid biker and hiker, is the embodiment of a rail-trail volunteer.
Mr. Mayuric said selfishness and a promise prompted him in 2011 to become a volunteer for the Armstrong Trail segment of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail. The segment, which includes several short share-the-road sections, now extends 30 continuous miles from Rosston to East Brady in Armstrong and Clarion counties.
The scenic non-motorized, multipurpose trail parallels the Allegheny River. In 2010 it was under construction from Templeton toward Rimer in Madison Township, where Mr. Mayuric lives with his wife, Polly. He described the progress as an inch by inch, painfully slow process.
“My wife and I desperately wanted to see the trail completed to East Brady so that she and I, our [two] children and [four] grandchildren could enjoy the beauty of this area that only walking or biking a managed trail can provide.
“That is the selfish reason,” he said. And the promise?
He said he and his wife were “trying to bicycle the unimproved, rough, bumpy, muddy, miserable section of the trail south of Hooks Station,” the former right-of-way of the Allegheny Valley Rail Road, when they met Ron Steffey.
It was the right time and the right place to meet the executive director of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust, which owns most of the Armstrong Trail. Ford City owns, manages and maintains 2 miles of the trail, and Kittanning has a 99-year lease to manage and maintain 3.5 miles in its community.
The Mayurics said they were eager to see the trail completed to East Brady. Mr. Mayuric said he would volunteer for the trail if it ever came close to his home.
A year later it did.
Mr. Mayuric, a retired Allegheny Ludlum Steel employee, said he was a novice at operating the heavy equipment used for trail work. Mr. Steffey taught him to operate a backhoe, a skid steer (a small version of a bulldozer) and a vibratory tamping roller to pack the trail surface.
Mr. Steffey said Mr. Mayuric has worked at no cost to anyone to transform “the bumpy, muddy rough old trail bed into the beautiful trail that it is today.”
“Jim is one of the main cogs in the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail,” Mr. Steffey said. “He is making it happen.”
Much remains to be done.
Roughly 5½ miles of the Armstrong Trail need to be improved, including the 2,468-foot Brady Narrows Tunnel and a segment above East Brady that ends near the village of Upper Hillville at the Toby Township/Madison Township boundary in Clarion County.
Mr. Steffey said detours around the tunnel using public roads and a section of the Redbank Valley Trail are being considered to connect the Armstrong Trail 7.58 miles to Parker Landing until the tunnel is repaired and reopened.
“Funding for the tunnel may take years to secure,” he said.
Information :www.armstrongrailstotrails.org; 412-407-2782, firstname.lastname@example.org; www.alleghenyvalleylandtrust.org; 724-543-4478.
Lawrence Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.