Although the storms that hit the region last week damaged the Montour Trail in a number of areas, volunteers were able to clean up the path in time for a ribbon-cutting Saturday to celebrate the opening of a new bridge and 0.8 miles of trail in South Park Township.
The ceremony was held at the new Triphammer Road trailhead near the bridge to dedicate the new segment along Piney Fork Creek, from Triphammer Road to Piney Fork Road, which includes a 115-foot truss bridge over the Piney Fork stream.
Originally built in 1920, the bridge was used as a footbridge for workers at a Monessen steel mill before being acquired in 2003 by the Montour Trail Council for $20,000.
The bridge was refurbished and finished with a wooden deck by volunteers. Emblems from three steel companies can be seen on the structure.
Major funding for the project came from Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Allegheny Regional Asset District, in addition to grants from the Laurel Foundation, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Trail Volunteer Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation and private donations.
To date, about 45 of the 47 miles of the main line of the Montour Trail, which stretches from Coraopolis to Clairton, have been completed with only three or four short gaps remaining, said trail council president Dennis Pfeiffer of Moon.
Of these gaps, he said, this one was the hardest to complete because of a 25- to 30-foot grade workers had to navigate to connect the trail.
Dave Oyler of South Park, a member of the trail council, oversaw the project and said this section was one of a few major construction projects required for the trail. In addition, it involved a lengthy process of securing the necessary rights of way from private property owners.
Equally challenging, he said, was the installation of the bridge, which took longer than expected due to a lack of funding.
The abutments were in place by November 2008, but the bridge wasn't installed until March 2010.
"There was a little bit of faith there that we would eventually get everything ready," Mr. Oyler said.
Despite the obstacles, the project finally came to fruition and the trail was opened for public use May 4. Since then, Mr. Oyler said, a lot of people have been using it.
"It seems like a dream," he said. "It's really hard to finally realize that it's complete and that you can go down there and walk on it now. It's been so long in the making."
Details: www.montourtrail.org or 412-257-3011.neigh_south
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: email@example.com.