Congratulations to the Allegheny Trail Alliance for earning the inaugural Pacesetter of the Year Award from the Adventure Cycling Association.
The Allegheny Trail Alliance is a coalition of seven volunteer groups in southern Pennsylvania and western Maryland that have created the 150-mile bike and hike Great Allegheny Passage.
Because of their efforts, touring bicyclists can hop onto the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath in Washington DC and bicycle nearly all the way to Pittsburgh on a trail free of vehicle traffic.
The first 186 miles of the route is the long-established C&O towpath that runs alongside the Potomac River, between Georgetown and Cumberland.
The Allegheny Trail Alliance, under the leadership of Linda McKenna Boxx, takes over in Cumberland. Since 1995, the Alliance's groups have overseen the construction and maintenance of the 150-mile route through the Allegheny Mountains to Pittsburgh, and an additional 52-mile route to the Pittsburgh airport.
They're responsible for the rail-to-trail route that weaves over mountains passes, crosses old train trestles, and tunnels through mountains. The most massive of these, the Big Savage Tunnel, bores 3,294 feet through a mountainside just north of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.
This month, the segment in Maryland that links the Great Allegheny Passage to the C&O towpath will officially be opened, creating a continuous bike path from Cumberland to McKeesport, nine miles from Pittsburgh. The final link to Pittsburgh is expected to be completed in 2008.
Members of the alliance are:
Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland from Cumberland to the Mason-Dixon Line
Allegheny Highlands Trail of Pennsylvania from the Mason-Dixon Line to Confluence
Youghiogheny River Trail South from Confluence to Connellsville
Youghiogheny River Trail North from Connellsville to McKeesport
Steel Valley Trail from Clairton to Homestead
Three Rivers Heritage Trail from Homestead to Pittsburgh
Montour Trail from Coraopolis to Clairton
According to the Adventure Cycling Association award:
“The Allegheny Trail Alliance has helped coordinate the creation of a showcase recreation corridor used by hundreds of thousands of people a year. The Great Allegheny Passage offers unparalleled opportunities for bicycle travel, recreation, and commuting and is making positive economic impact along its route. The Alliance’s community-building efforts and multi-tiered partnerships are a national model for other groups working to connect communities through recreational trails.”
This fall, Kyle Wagner, travel editor for the Denver Post, wrote a well-documented account of the family's bicycle trip up the C&O towpath and Great Allegheny Trail to Pittsburgh. There's also a richly detailed map (.pdf file).
Allegheny Trail Alliance is hosting a ribbon-cutting on the new section of trail at 1 p.m. Dec. 14 at Canal Place in Cumberland. Later that same day, the Alliance will receive its Pacesetter award from Adventure Cycling Association at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Pittsburgh REI, 412 S. 27th Street.