When Mary Ellen Ramage faces Downtown for a sunset view from Etna’s riverfront, the manager of the borough feels inspired by one of the most picturesque scenes in the region.
But in the immediate landscape around her along the Allegheny River, she sees a single tree amid an industrial wasteland of concrete rubble, old railroad ties and other debris associated with a water treatment plant and sand and gravel business that were both abandoned years ago.
Ms. Ramage and many others are hoping for a far prettier picture at the site within a year or two, with the help of a $500,000 grant just announced from the state.
The grant, supporting a $2 million project to extend the Three Rivers Heritage Trail from Millvale another half-mile through Etna, was among $28 million in recreation-related funds awarded late last month by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Among others receiving assistance were conservation and recreation projects in Bell Acres, Hampton and Ross in Allegheny County and in Zelienople, Penn, Lancaster and at the county-owned Alameda Park in Butler Township in Butler County.
The trail extension will benefit everyone accustomed to using the biking/jogging trail from Downtown to Millvale, Ms. Ramage said, as well as draw in new users by connecting the gap in Etna.
She said Friends of the Riverfront bought property once used by the sand and gravel company near the 62nd Street Bridge and then donated the land to Etna for trail development. Borough officials have been working for several years on the plans and funding with the riverfront group, Allegheny County and the Allegheny River Towns Enterprise Zone.
The first step in construction, which Ms. Ramage hopes will occur this year, is the creation of a flyover to take pedestrian and bicycle traffic safely across the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks that parallel the river. Afterward will come the trail construction, site cleanup, plantings, benches, parking area and other amenities to make the spot as picturesque as the view.
“It’s a way to connect the community back to the river ... a perfect example of recycling,” Ms. Ramage said.
The biggest state recreation grant to northern communities was the $700,000 that Zelienople received to support a $1.6 million project to replace its municipal swimming pool. The existing pool, in use for nearly six decades, has become increasingly difficult to maintain, and the new facility will be about 1,300 square feet larger and be able to serve many more uses, said borough planning consultant Ben Levenger.
Additional funds are being raised for the project by the Zelienople Community Park Board while engineering plans are drawn up, with the hope of starting construction early next year.
The state also awarded these grants in the northern suburbs:
• $218,600 to the Allegheny Land Trust for acquisition of 29 acres for open space at the headwaters of Little Sewickley Creek in Bell Acres.
• $200,000 for improvements to Hampton Community Park, including installation of a volleyball court and renovation of the basketball and street hockey courts.
• $17,500 to Ross for a master site development plan and splash park feasibility study of Sangree Park.
• $270,000 for new play equipment, pavilions, access and landscaping at Harcrest Park in Penn.
• $150,000 for new access, parking, landscaping and other improvements at Four Springs Park in Lancaster.
• $87,500 for Alameda Park improvements, including better access, parking and landscaping, and a shade shelter in Jade’s Dog Park.
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.