Tunnel vision: Enhancing the Great Allegheny Passage

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Nature trails come packed with their own majestic beauty. Whether under a soaring canopy of trees or along a chattering stream, a sylvan hiking and biking path can raise the heart rate, revive the senses and renew the spirit.

People who have explored stretches of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile trail between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Md., know the feeling. Consider, then, the promise of something more.

Imagine the possibility of adding to that popular route an 849-foot abandoned railroad tunnel. Imagine that the reopened tunnel would come with trail bridges at either end, all located in a quarter-mile of the trail amid big rocks and a cold stream. Imagine, finally, that the view from one end of that tunnel would be nothing short of spectacular.

All that is possible if advocates such as the Allegheny Trail Alliance can complete the $1.7 million fundraising package needed to open the old tunnel, a 1911 relic from the Western Maryland Railway. The Post-Gazette’s Jon Schmitz reported last week that a proponent of the project said much of the money has been raised and that the Somerset County Rails to Trails Association has launched a public campaign to generate $100,000. Private sources may be tapped for the balance.

Those who want to contribute can send donations to: Somerset County Rails to Trails Association, Attn: Pinkerton, P.O. Box 413, Somerset, PA 15501.

The county commissioners have already OK’d the project, which could be completed sometime next year. Money may not buy love, but on the Great Allegheny Passage it can buy serenity, vitality and natural splendor.

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