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PG: Restore PA Could Accelerate Trail Development in Western Pennsylvania

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has joined local riverfront communities to improve the parks and trails along the Allegheny River with the goal of closing gaps on the trail that prevent bikers and hikers from enjoying a full ride.

Cindy Dunn, DCNR secretary, recently discussed this goal with local officials as they walked part of the trail between Sharpsburg and Aspinwall. She said because the site is considered a former brownfield, it qualifies for proposed state funding called Restore Pennsylvania.

The $4.5 billion proposal in the state budget would tax the oil and gas industries and provide funding to turn brownfields into recreational uses. “Trail gaps are a top priority,” Ms. Dunn said. “This 1.5-mile addition will be appreciated by users from Pittsburgh to Erie.”

The walk began at Riverfront 47 in Sharpsburg, which stretches from Aspinwall Riverfront Park to the north and James Sharp Landing to the south. A deal was recently reached between the developer of the property, Steven Mosites Jr., president of The Mosites Co. Inc. of Pittsburgh, and Sharpsburg to keep the access road open to the former Silky’s Marina so boaters could return to their favorite docks this summer. Mosites will pay Sharpsburg $500 a month for access this summer while continuing to improve the 47-acre riverfront property that runs through Aspinwall, O’Hara and Sharpsburg along the Allegheny River.

Sharpsburg Mayor Matt Rudzik said having the DCNR as an additional collaborator on developing a river trail in Sharpsburg gives local municipalities more resources to continue local projects with the common goal of connecting them via a trail network.

The Sharpsburg contingent was joined by Aspinwall Manager Melissa O’Malley, Council President Tim McLaughlin and Councilman Dave Brown, as well as O’Hara Manager Julie Jakubec and Council President Bob Smith.

Etna Borough Manager Mary Ellen Ramage said the borough continues to work on the development of its Riverfront Park and Trail along the Allegheny River below the 62nd Street Bridge. Located 24 feet above the Allegheny River, it is a unique piece of urban property that has the potential to become a key link in a regional trail system. Work on that project is expected to begin in early June, she said.

“Work for riverfront trail development both north and south of Etna is ongoing, making the possibilities for connections exciting.” said Ms. Ramage. “The Etna portion of the trail will begin at the Shaler Township boundary line and continue to the boundary with our neighbor, Sharpsburg Borough.”

In addition to DCNR, Etna also is working with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Allegheny County, Friends of the Riverfront, state Sen. Lindsey Williams and state Rep. Sara Innamorato to make the river trail connections up the Allegheny Valley a reality.

Together they are developing plans for connections into the community and to Shaler so that hikers and bikers can have better access to the trail.

While much of the riverfront trail system is still a work in progress, plenty is open to hikers and bikers and those who start at the Millvale Riverfront Park and travel along the 1.7-mile trail along the Allegheny River to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which runs through the North Shore of Pittsburgh, past the stadiums and beyond.

Rita Michel, freelance writer, suburbanliving@post-gazette.com