Point Marion, PA (May 7, 2018) — The Fayette County Commissioners were joined by many officials, volunteers, and partner organizations this morning to break ground on the Point Marion Segment Project of the Sheepskin Trail. Construction of this segment, the southernmost of the trail, will complete 1.7 miles of the Sheepskin Trail beginning at the West Virginia border, north through Springhill Township, and into Point Marion Borough to the Cheat River. Following its completion, the Point Marion Segment Project will provide a direct connection to the 48-mile Mon River Trail System in West Virginia.
“This is an important first step in opening the door to the positive economic impacts a recreational attraction like this trail can provide to our communities and Fayette County,” said Fayette County Commissioner Vince Vicites. “By connecting to the established trail systems to the south, we’re looking to replicate the success stories we’ve seen occurring in other communities in the region who have embraced the economic opportunities trails and their users provide.”
Construction of the Point Marion Segment Project will include installation of trail head and gateway signs, bollards, gates, road crossing signs and striping, split rail fencing, trail surface and landscaping, parking and trail access, including ADA accessibility. “In addition to the economic benefits, the segment provides opportunities for our residents to be active, use an alternative transportation option, and take advantage of the existing borough and state recreational amenities located along this greenway,” said Fayette County Commissioner Dave Lohr. “We’re only 9 miles from the economic hub of Morgantown, and more investments will be made to provide services to trail users and visitors alike.”
Adding to the celebratory event was the announcement that Fayette County has secured funding to construct the Sheepskin Trail’s Nilan Road Segment Project through the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s (SPC) Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside (TA) Program. Working with their Metropolitan Planning Organization partners at SPC, Fayette County and its Sheepskin Trail development partner, the National Road Heritage Corridor, secured $906,360 in TA Program funding to construct approximately two additional miles of the trail from the end point of the Point Marion Segment Project, across the Cheat River and eastward along the abandoned Baltimore & Ohio rail line in Springhill Township. This segment, running parallel with Nilan Road, will offer trail users opportunities to view remnants of and learn about the Cheat River Coke Works. Fayette County was previously awarded $96,000 in funding though SPC’s SMART Transportation Program to complete the design and engineering phases of the Nilan Road Segment Project.
“The collaboration, teamwork, and partnerships at the local, state, and regional levels are an essential reason we’re here today celebrating this achievement,” said Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of Recreation and Conservation Director Tom Ford. “The trail has been identified as a key gap in our state and national trail system, and we are thrilled to start construction on this piece.”
Once completed, the 34-mile Sheepskin Trail will fill a missing link to a nationally significant trail system, connecting the WV Mon River Trail System at its southern terminus to the Great Allegheny Passage at the northern terminus near Dunbar. Crossing through the heart of Fayette County, the trail will connect schools, recreational facilities and municipal parks, and will link together the Youghiogheny, Monongahela, and Cheat River watersheds – creating a significant greenway of historical, cultural and natural resources. The trail will alternate between a “rail-trail” and a “rail-with-trail” system following the old Penn Central line, the old Baltimore & Ohio/CSX line, and an active short line, the Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad. When completed, the trail will connect many communities within Fayette County such as Dunbar, Mount Braddock, Lemont Furnace, Uniontown, Hopwood, Fairchance, Smithfield, Cornish, Outcrop, Gans, Lake Lynn and Point Marion.
“Fayette County and its residents are really fortunate to have the quality and amount of interested partners working together to complete all 34 miles of the Sheepskin”, echoed Fayette County Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink. “I appreciate the efforts of the project partners as they continue to promote transportation alternatives, which are essential for creating more livable communities and growing the region’s economy.”
SPC’s TA Program provides funding for programs and projects including on- and off-road pedestrian and bicycle facilities; infrastructure projects for improving non-driver access to public transportation and enhanced mobility; community improvement activities; environmental mitigation; recreational trail program projects; and, safe routes to school projects.
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) is the region’s forum for collaboration, planning and public decision-making. As the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the ten-county region including the City of Pittsburgh and the counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland, SPC is responsible for planning and prioritizing the use of all state and federal transportation funds allocated to the region. As the Local Development District (LDD) and Economic Development District for Southwestern Pennsylvania (as designated by the U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce), SPC establishes regional economic development priorities and provides a wide range of public services to the region.
The National Road Heritage Corridor (NRHC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and one of 12 heritage areas under the DCNR Pennsylvania Heritage Area Program. This designation represents recognition of the Historic National Road’s – the Nation’s first federally funded highway built in the early1800’s – wealth of historic, cultural, scenic and recreational resources and amenities. The NRHC works with local, state and national partners to develop and enhance the visitor experience along the corridor and in the region to create opportunity for economic impact and growth through tourism and greater well being and livability for residents.
In late 2010, the Fayette County Commissioners adopted a resolution naming the National Road Heritage Corridor (NRHC) its Sheepskin Trail development management partner. Since that time, the NRHC has been working to identify and secure funding to continue the design, land acquisition and construction of this important recreational asset.