Fall & Winter 1996
Regional Trail Corp - Update
Submitted by: Robert McKinley, RTC Manager
Still Growing & Still Growing
The Youghiogheny River Trail is creating national interest. It has been named one of the 19 best walks in the world by Travel and Leisure Magazine - and it is not even completed yet! Over 230,000 people currently live within five miles of the Youghiogheny River Trail and over 2.1 million live within 90 minutes of the trail. For these people, the Trail provides an excellent source of exercise and relaxation - and it is absolutely free to users. For those who live farther away, it is an excellent reason to visit this region.
In 1991, the non-profit 501(c)3 Regional Trail Corporation (RTC) was formed to acquire, develop and manage the North section of the Youghiogheny River Trail (McKeesport to Connellsville). The YRT is a major link in the 368-mile bike/hike rails-to-trails system from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.
The Youghiogheny River Trail provides healthy recreation for the whole family. The gentle grade and even surface, seperation from motorized traffic and the inherently scenic character of the Y.R.T. offer people of all ages and levels of physical ability a magnificent setting in which they can safely walk, job, cross-country ski, or bicyle. As of June, 1996 over 25 miles have been completed and are being heavily used by walkers, runners, horseback riders, cyclists and people in wheelchairs. The anticipated date for completion of the entire Y.R.T. from McKeesport to Connellsville is 1997. The link with the YRT (South Section), 27 miles from Confluence through Ohiopyle to Connellsville has already been completed. The proposed link with the Steel Heritage Trail running to McKeesport from Pittsburgh is scheduled for completion by 1999. Parking lots at access points in Boston, Buena Vista, Sutersville, West Newton, Cedar Creek and Smithon Beach are full on weekends in the spring, summer and fall. Even during the winter, the trail is used by individuals who walk, bike or cross-country ski on the Trail.
Because the YRT North is located in such close proximity to so many people, weekday use is much heavier than expected. Many nearby residents' daily routine includes walking or biking the Trail. It has become the new "Main Street" where friends and neighbors meet. This trend is expected to continue as construction of the trail continues to link more and more communities.
The Trail continues to encourage healthy economic development in the communities through which it runs. Towns like West Newton, Boston and Dawson are already experiencing increased traffic in stores and eateries. Bed and breakfast establishments along the Trail are also benefiting economically.
When the entire Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. Trails System is completed, it is expected to draw users from all over the country and around the world. Combined with the power of attractions that are located near the trails, such as Fallingwater, Ohiopyle, Linden Hall, Kennywood and so many others, the Trail is a boon to tourism throughout Westmoreland, Fayette and Allegheny Counties. The National Park Service conservatively estimates there will be 500,000 visitors per year on the completed Youghiogheny River Trail. This tourist trade will generate millions of additional dollars each year to local businesses. Surveys of bike/hike trail tourism expenditures in other states suggest that food and lodging businesses such as restuarants, bed and breakfasts and motels will benefit greatly from tourist income.
Trail usage is a major force in reenergizing the economy by breathing new life into the small towns and villages that were hard hit by the decline in steel, coal, coke and railroad industries along the Youghiogheny River in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Regional Trail Corporation is also committed to creating a Greenway that conserves natural resources; that provides extensive recreational opprotunities for people all along the corridor; that remedies contaminated sites; and that encourages environmentally-friendly economic growth. Today, with the closing of the mines and coke ovens and the mandated treament of run-off, the waters of the Youghiogheny run clear again to be enjoyed by trail users and sportsmen. Fish are once again swimming in the river and the river otter was recently reintroduced to the area. By protecting the corridor and extending it, we are securing a regional resource that will benefit generations to come.
The Youghiogheny River Trail (North Section) is a cooperative effort of Westmoreland, Allegheny and Fayette Counties; numerous munipalities; private foundations; corporations; and literally thousands of individuals. Trail organizations in West Newton, Connellsville and McKeesport have found significant support. Over 1,000 people are paid members of these trail groups and many members volunteer time as well. The "Over the Hill Gang" in West Newton and Smithton is an amazing group of retirees who have saved the Regional Trail Corporation thousands of dollars in labor costs.
The Trail is a multi-million dollar project and we have been fortunate to have the financial support of the Eberly Foundation, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the USX Foundation, the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, Blue Cross, Bell Atlantic, National City Bank, Commerical National Bank and many other foundations and corporations.
We want to take this opprotunity to thank everyone who has been involved with the RTC over the past few years. We have once again proven that the best way to attack a large project is to begin at the grassroots level and complete one project at a time while we lay the groundwork for the next project.
Join the trail group nearest you and become a part of the future. We remind everyone that each of us has some talent that can be utilized to continue to build the dream of a continuous recreational trail that will revitalize southwestern Pennsylvania.
For more information contact:
Friends of the Riverfront
P.O. Box 42434
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Steel Industrial Heritage Corp.
338 East Ninth Avenue
Homestead, PA 15120
Regional Trail Corporation
P.O. Box 95
West Newton, PA 15089