Larry Walsh on biking: Spectacular bridges, tunnel enrich Great Allegheny Passage

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June and Colin "Deak" Deakins said the opportunity to bike across one bridge, through a tunnel and across another bridge in rapid succession will be "another spectacular feature" along the Great Allegheny Passage.

The veteran bicyclists are correct.

The couple, longtime members of the Somerset County Rails-to-Trails Association (SCRTA), were referring to the Pinkerton High Bridge, the Pinkerton Tunnel and the Pinkerton Low Bridge.

The aptly named bridges, which span the meandering Casselman River at different heights, are located between Fort Hill and Markleton in southern Somerset County. They have been in use for many years.

The 849-foot long tunnel built by the Western Maryland Railway, however, has been closed for more than 30 years because of its deteriorating condition. Its entrances are blocked. A 1.5-mile trail detour around a peninsula known as the Pinkerton Horn now connects the Pinkerton bridges.

"It's time to complete the 'Passage Thru Pinkerton," June Deakins said.

"The Great Allegheny Passage has proven to be a world-class trail," she added, referring to the bicyclists who have traveled from Canada, Europe, Mexico, Central and South America, Asia and Africa to pedal its 150-mile length from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md.

"We need to improve as well as maintain our valuable asset," Deak said. "The opportunity is here and now."

Yes, it is.

The Deakins said much of the estimated $1.75 million to rehabilitate the tunnel is in place. The couple and SCRTA are working to raise $100,000 toward the cost of the project and, as of Friday, nearly $40,000 has been contributed.

"For every dollar raised, there will be a match of $17," June Deakins said. "A $100 donation will be met with $1,700 in matching funds. Donations from individuals or businesses at the $500 level, the $1,000 level and the $5,000 level will be acknowledged on a plaque at the tunnel.

"To secure the matching funds, we can't afford to delay," she said.

Checks should be made payable to SCRTA and mailed to P.O. Box 413, Somerset, Pa., 15501. Donations can be made online at www.atatrail.org/pinkerton.

Bald Eagle T-shirts

A new, limited edition T-shirt featuring the bald eagles and eaglets of Hays is being offered by Friends of the Riverfront as part of the "I Heart Trails" T-shirt series for the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.

The shirts can be purchased online at www.friendsoftheriverfront.org and at the association's offices at 33 Terminal Way, Suite 333B, South Side. Free trail maps are available at the office and online at www.friendsoftheriverfront.org.

The bald eagles and their young are nesting in a tree overlooking the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, a segment of the Great Allegheny Passage near the Waterfront development. They can be viewed at www.post-gazette.com/sports/outdoors. Information: friends@friendsoftheriverfront.org; 412-488-0212.

Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.


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