Ohio River Trails and Greenway Project moves forward
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The Ohio River Trails and Greenway Project -- a pedestrian and bike trail that is to run from Pittsburgh to Coraopolis-- is moving closer to becoming a reality, with officials meeting to discuss plans and cyclists riding the entire length of the proposed route to check out safety and traffic issues.
County and local officials met for an early-morning planning session May 2 in McKees Rocks to talk about the proposed riverfront trail that will pass through Pittsburgh, McKees Rocks, Stowe, Kennedy, Robinson, Neville, Moon and Coraopolis. They will meet two or three more times over the next nine months to discuss direction, safety, ownership and responsibility for each section of the trail.
"When these trails are done in a smart way, it increases the quality of life in the communities," Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said. "You are opening it up to the world."
The trails, greenways and loops will run along the Ohio River and Route 51, paralleling roadways and railroad lines. Suggested loops off the main trail that are being considered run through the McKees Rocks Bottoms and onto Neville Island.
The Presston Pedestrian Bridge, which used to link Presston, a former company town of the Pressed Steel Car Co., and Island Avenue in present-day Stowe, also is being considered as part of the project. The 100-year-old bridge has been closed since December 1997, according to John Makar, a local historian associated with the McKees Rocks Historical Society who lives in the Presston section of Stowe.
The Ohio River Trail ultimately will connect the Great Allegheny Passage to the 46-mile Montour Trail, a rail trail that stretches between Moon and Clairton, and a spur -- the Panhandle Trail -- covering 29 miles between Walkers Mill in Collier and Colliers, W.Va.
Hannah Hardy, director of recreational infrastructure with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, is a biker interested in alternate transportation.
"People are finding new and different ways to get around Allegheny County," she said. The trails and greenways "will improve bike and pedestrian connections for local residents," she said.
Bob Genter with Mackin Engineering Co. discussed the feasibility study his company has performed on how to safely implement the route for this portion of the trail/greenway. He said he and his group biked the "entire alignment" along the shoulder of existing roadways three weeks ago to get a sense of traffic.
"There are people out there using this to commute to Downtown," he said.
Bike Pittsburgh designates sections of West Carson Street and Island Avenue in McKees Rocks and Stowe as an on-street bike route.
Mr. Genter referred to the trail as an economic generator for the municipalities involved. "[It's] another way to expose more people to the places that you live in and the places we want to show off," he said.
He also said it is a way to "expose all the gems, like this place," referring to the Ryan Event Center, where the meeting was held. The event center is a new endeavor by Focus on Renewal and the Father Ryan Arts Center to offer an affordable off-site location for businesses and groups to hold meetings and events.
"On average, people are spending $8 each time they stop for food or water," said Darla Cravotta, a special projects director with Mr. Fitzgerald's office.
Additionally, these trails should someday connect to the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Mainline Canal Greenway, trails along the Erie-to-Pittsburgh Trail Alliance and to the proposed Ohio River Trail Council project to connect Coraopolis to the juncture of the Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania state lines.
Currently, Moon is undertaking the development of a design plan for a new 17-acre waterfront park that would border the Ohio River Trail project. The proposed park site is the former home of the RB&W Corp., a bolt manufacturing plant near the Sewickley Bridge.
The township acquired the vacant property in 2002 with the intention of performing environmental remediation and creating a new public waterfront park. The future park will have 1,750 feet of Ohio River frontage and could potentially include a variety of riverfront recreation amenities such as boating, kayaking and fishing. Playgrounds and pavilions may be included.
A meeting to review initial findings on the existing condition of the site and to discuss types of uses for the waterfront park will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Moon municipal building, 1000 Beaver Grade Road.
In another recreational development, plans are in the works for a 78-acre sports and athletics complex along Route 51 in Coraopolis, Moon and Robinson. The proposed development would include 10 to 15 nontraditional sports fields, including two or three artificial turf fields.
A 1-mile extension of the Montour Trail there will connect the existing trail head with the future Ohio River Trail. The park, which will include improved fishing access to Montour Run, picnic tables and a playground, is a joint project between the Sports Legacy Foundation and the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County.
First Published May 10, 2012 4:56 am