The dedication this week of the Q-Span, a bike/pedestrian bridge over the Conemaugh River that connects Indiana and Westmoreland counties, also served as the completion of the 15.35-mile West Penn Trail between Blairsville and Saltsburg.
The 560-foot span, formerly used as a temporary highway bridge in West Virginia, was purchased for $190,000 by the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy.
"It is a key feature in the regional trail system, the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway and a big step toward bringing the trail into Blairsville," said conservancy facilitator Mike Quinn.
Quinn, who has coordinated the development of the trail since the conservancy was formed in 1994, said funding for the bridge project was provided by PennDOT ($1.3 million) and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ($450,000).
"PennDOT and the DCNR bent over backwards to make this happen," he said.
When former conservancy president and current board member Dick Mayer suggested naming the span the Mike Quinn Memorial Bridge, Quinn demurred.
"I'm not dead yet," he quipped. But, when his wife, Linda, suggested calling it the Q-Span, he agreed.
"It's an honor," he said, "and I'm humbled because I know how much work so many other people put into it."
Many of those people were among the more than 200 in attendance Thursday morning when the bridge was dedicated. Their contributions were uniquely noted on bags of trail mix provided by Nature's Way in Greensburg. Their names, as the ingredients to the success of the trail.
The ceremony also included the opening of an 0.8 mile segment of the trail on the eastern side of the bridge that leads to Newport Road.
A feasibility study, sponsored by Indiana County and funded by the DCNR, is under way to connect the Hoodlebug Trail in Blairsville with the West Penn Trail. In Saltsburg, the West Penn Trail connects with the Westmoreland Heritage Trail that goes to Slickville and eventually will extend to Trafford in Westmoreland County.
Unlike other trails, where cell phone service ranges from sporadic to nonexistent, Quinn said riders in need of assistance can call 911 and the Call Center will be able to pinpoint their exact position.
An introduction to bicycle racing will be at 10 a.m. today at the Washington Boulevard Cycling Oval in Highland Park.
The clinic, which will include a lecture and practice session, is sponsored by the Allegheny Cycling Association, JBV Coaching and the Iron City Bikes and Morningside Velo racing teams.
"We understand the sport seems pretty inaccessible and intimidating," said Brian Janaszek, one of the organizers. "That's why we're putting on this clinic. Many of us recently got into racing and we want to share our excitement for it in a no-pressure atmosphere."
The clinic will be led by Chris Mayhew from JBV Coaching and veteran racer Stephen Cummings. They'll discuss types of racing, requirements and how to find races.
Helmets are required. Bikes should be in good working condition.
Nick Pointon of the North Hills, Andrew Scherbick of South Park, Jimmy Leslie of Pittsburgh and Heather Cowell of Pittsburgh won their respective age and gender categories at the Gravity East Series last weekend at Seven Springs.
Floyd Macheska of West Newton, Keith Jeziorski of South Park and William Daugherty of Laughlintown and Charlie Sliger of Pittsburgh finished third in their respective age categories.
More than 170 riders in 17 age and gender classes -- from boys and girls 14 and younger to men and women 40 and older -- competed in 11 races in the USA Cycling-sanctioned downhill event.
For more information, go to www.7springs.com or call 1-800-452-2223.
Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.