A 19-year journey coming to end

Montour Trail work started in 1989

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A lone jogger and an occasional bicyclist skirted dump trucks, graders and a giant pile of limestone one day last week as volunteers from Friends of the Montour Trail finished work on a 1.75-mile stretch of trail that has been 19 years in the making.

Known as Phase 16 or West Peters, the section links the heavily used Arrowhead Trail in Peters with the next portion of the trail in Cecil.

Better yet, completion of this section will provide about 30 miles of continuous trail, with the exception of a one-quarter-mile break in Cecil, where bikers and walkers have to venture out into Route 50, and work is under way there, too.

The almost-continuous trail now stretches from Moon near Coraopolis through Imperial, McDonald, Cecil and Peters. The Montour Trail is popular with bike riders, joggers and walkers, including walkers accompanied by dogs and baby strollers.

The Arrowhead portion is extremely busy, especially on weekends, and because Peters municipal officials paved the trail, skaters are added to the mix. The surface on the rest of the trail is finely crushed limestone.

A ribbon cutting will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday to celebrate the completion of Phase 16. The location is Tom Robinson's TAR Storage facility off Valleybrook Road just west of Route 19 in the McMurray section of Peters.

"In 1989 we thought we could do it all in three or four years," said Stan Sattinger of Bethel Park.

Mr. Sattinger is one of the co-founders of Friends of the Montour Trail, and one of the many volunteers who has been working on the West Peters trail project.

In the past two years, about 50 volunteers have put in 2,500 hours of work along the 1.8-mile stretch.

"We started clearing the trail in 2006," said Gil McGurl of Nottingham. "Last year we had to clean up two landslides and do drainage work to keep water off" the trail.

Funding includes $125,000 from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

"We match grants and much of the match is in volunteer labor," Mr. McGurl said. "Peters and Bethel Park each gave us about 2,000 tons of asphalt milling for the base" of the trail. "We get a lot of work done because we have a lot of dedicated volunteers. It's a lot cheaper than contracting the work out, but it's a bit slower."

One day last week, Frank Ludwin of Cecil finished up laying down a subsurface of asphalt milling.

Mr. Ludwin, 75, is retired from the construction industry, but not from working hard. He's volunteered with the Friends of the Montour Trail for 10 years. He's a mechanic, a welder and a fabricator, which has come in handy. He designed and built a "spreader push box" that attaches to the front of a grader to put millings down for the trail base. He also designed and built a "drag box" that goes on the back of a dump truck to spread the crushed limestone on the trail.

The new trail should officially be finished in time for the ribbon-cutting, though it has already been discovered and used by some of the hardier cyclists and joggers.

As for that quarter-mile section in Cecil: Currently people have to get off the trail and cross heavily traveled Route 50. Steps and ramps to a currently inaccessible bridge are being built so that trail users can avoid the highway.

That project has been aided with a $3,000 grant from the Trail Volunteer Fund established by Roy Weil and Mary Shaw of Squirrel Hill through the Pittsburgh Foundation.

People who come to Saturday's trail ribbon cutting will also get to see the 79-ton railroad crane that was recently moved there. The recently formed Montour Railroad Historical Society heard that it was going to be scrapped. Their volunteers, many of whom also are members of the trail group, are restoring and repainting it.

People who use the trail will be able to see it regularly, because it sits right next to the trail.

Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064.


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