Saturday, June 15, 2013 marked the end of a long journey for rail trail supporters in Pennsylvania and the northeast. A celebration and unveiling was held at Point State Park in Pittsburgh to celebrate the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail. Part of the celebration was the unveiling of the marker at Point State Park that recognizes the western terminus of the trail.
It is a journey that has was started nearly in the mid-80’s. The first section of the GAP trail was opened in the Ohiopyle area in 1986. The trail has grown over the years with a one mile stretch in Pittsburgh being the last section to complete the trail. The section in question was a section in the area of Sandcastle Park. Through years of negotiations headed by the President of the Allegheny Trails Alliance, Linda McKenna Box, an agreement was reached to complete the last section using an abandoned section of railroad by the park. Ground was broken on the final section of trail on October 12, 2012. This section connects the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and the Steel Valley Trail.
The Point Made event was marked with a ribbon cutting on the trail at Sandcastle, the unveiling ceremony at Point State Park, and several community events including a ride from Sandcastle to the point. In addition, a group ride was started in Washington, D.C. on June 8 and ended at the Point on June 15. Over 1200 people attended the various events to mark the trail’s completion.
The Great Allegheny Passage is a rail trail that runs between Cumberland, MD and Pittsburgh, PA. The trail passes through the southern Alleghenies south of Johnstown. The trail is a featured part of one of the Area Attraction Packages at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. The trail connects with the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail which runs between Ohiopyle and the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown. The 152 mile trail connects with the C & O Canal Towpath in Cumberland which allows bike riders to travel from Pittsburgh all the way to Washington on the trail. The trail is part of this year’s Greenways Sojourn conducted by the Rail Trails Conservancy which takes part every year in the northeast. This will be the third straight year that the sojourn has visited the areas around Johnstown.
The trail is open for anyone to ride. You can plan your own ride along the entire trail or portions of the trail. There are also some great tour packages for seeing the trail also. Here are some of the tours available:
- Seven Springs Mountain Resort: The resort has four different GAP Adventure Packages for couples and families. They are one or two night packages and they start at $263 per couple or $304 per family of four. These trips run through October 24, 2013.
- Wilderness Voyageurs: The outfitter in Ohiopyle, PA offers several six day bike tours along the GAP and C & O Canal Towpath throughout the summer. Most are sold out but some dates remain for September. They can also help you in planning your own trip along the trail. They also have a three day tour available along the GAP trail.
While the trail has been completed, there is still some work to do. On Friday, June 14, Pennsylvania DCNR announced that it would be investing $2 million in capital budget funds to help improve the connection and accessibility to the trail at Point State Park. “Pennsylvania is home to one of the most spectacular rail-trails in country, the Great Allegheny Passage,” DCNR State Parks Bureau Director Dave Kemmerer said. “This connector trail will bring the trail into the newly renovated Point State Park, along the Monongahela Wharf, to Pittsburgh’s iconic fountain.” This will provide a traffic free entrance into the park. DCNR Deputy Secretary Cindy Dunn, who will participated in the nine-mile bike ride from Sandcastle to Point State Park Saturday, said throughout the years the department has invested close to $10 million in grant funds in completing the Great Allegheny Passage. “We’ve made investments not only in the construction of the path, but also in connections to trail towns, to tie destinations together, to provide visitors with opportunities for wellness, recreation and a chance to connect with nature, and to protect our history and natural resources,” Dunn said.
So get out and try one of the premier trails in the area. Enjoy some of the most wonderful scenery east of the Rockies. See you on the trails Johnstown.