Laura Hawkins said the Trans Allegheny Trails are a system of 13 rail-trails “with attitude.”
“Parts of them are almost level, while other sections are downright challenging,” said Hawkins, the Kiski-Conemaugh Greenway coordinator for the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway.
The latter are “part of the fun for riders who like to get their hearts pumping and don’t mind breaking a sweat,” she said. “[But] most sections are typical rail-trail — less than a 3 percent grade — and run through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Allegheny Mountains.”
Hawkins invites bicyclists of all ages and abilities to join her and rail-trail representatives at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the River’s Edge Park in Saltsburg “for an event three years in the making.” The park is near the trailheads of the West Penn and Westmoreland Heritage trails.
She said the representatives will announce the formation of a network of 13 biking/hiking trails and display an all-inclusive map and signage “that make it a true trail system.”
Hawkins, a bicyclist since childhood, said there will be a “ribbon-joining” ceremony instead of a ribbon-cutting to symbolize “the joining of these trails into a cohesive trail system.”
She said the idea for the network was born on “a hot July week in 2011 [when] hundreds of bicyclists converged upon our region for the annual Rails-to-Trails Greenway Sojourn.”
She said, “Participating trail operators met with RTC representatives to plan and execute the sojourn, worked effectively together and discovered that bicyclists were willing to come here from distant places for a multiple-day bicycling experience.”
Determined to replicate that on an ongoing basis, the operators created a trail system through a website, maps and signage. The result is the Trans Allegheny Trails — “the region’s newest tourism asset.”
The system includes Apollo’s Kiski Riverfront Trail, the Bells Gap Trail, Blairsville Riverfront Trail, Ghost Town Trail, Hoodlebug Trail, Jim Mayer Riverswalk, Lower Trail, Path of the Flood, Roaring Run Trail, 6 to 10 Trail, Staple Bend Tunnel Trail, West Penn Trail and the Westmoreland Heritage Trail.
Hawkins said many of the trails are part of the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal, “a 320-mile corridor of heritage sites and hub communities linked by land and water trails, including the Kiski-Conemaugh Water Trail.”
She added that trails have “all of the historic character of the Allegheny Mountains, including the oldest railroad tunnel in America, a flood-control dam, iron furnaces, picturesque bridges, amazing stonework, old towpaths and the watercourse of a historic flood.”
She said the network of trails is the result of a maximum volunteer effort by 11 rail-trail organizations at minimal cost — less than $30,000.
The money came from the Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program, the Indiana County Visitors Bureau, Explore Altoona, the RTC, contributions from the trail operators and advertising purchased by trail- and tourism-related businesses.
Information: www.TransAlleghenyTrails.com; lhawkins32@zoominternet; 724-858-0463; 1-814-940-1421.
Mason & Dixon
The Allegheny Trail Alliance will celebrate the completion of Mason & Dixon Line Park at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, British astronomers and surveyors, resolved a land dispute between the Penn family of Pennsylvania and the Calvert family of Maryland. They started working on the line in 1765 and completed it in 1767.
Their partnership has been described as “a perfect merging of scientific astronomy with land surveying, laying the foundations of modern geodetic field survey.”
The new park is approximately 4 miles from the Deal trailhead via the Big Savage Tunnel and about 5 miles up from the Frostburg trailhead. The alliance said the park wouldn’t have been possible without the support of government, foundation and corporate partners throughout the trail corridor.
Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.