Another year has gone by, and we are excited to take time to reflect on the land and water trail work that we completed in 2021 and share our 2022 plans. We are proud to announce that in 2021 we raised $395,900 in trail project funds. These funds will go toward expansion and maintenance projects on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and Water Trail. We also welcomed a new member to the Trail Development Team, Katie Craig, our AmeriCorps Trail Development Fellow. Katie adds needed capacity to make progress on our many trail projects.
In 2021 we celebrated two trail openings, one in Etna Borough and the other in Harrison Township.
The ribbon cutting at Etna Riverfront Park and Trail was the culmination of almost 8 years of partners working together to reconnect Etna with their riverfront. Etna’s new park and trail is a testament to both the resilience of Allegheny Valley communities and trail development efforts by Etna Borough and their partners.
We also applaud our partners, Allegheny RiverTrail Park on purchasing the riverfront property needed to add 1.5 miles of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail between Aspinwall and Sharpsburg.
Expanding a multi-use trail through urban and sub-urban areas, especially areas that were and are still industrialized, and against a backdrop of hilly terrain, is quite a challenge. Every bit of new trail is a cause for celebration!
Friends of the Riverfront also worked with our Erie to Pittsburgh Trail partners to develop the northern terminus of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail. Along with the Oil Region Alliance and Erie County, we designed and installed a new bronze marker and parklet at Dobbins Landing in Erie, PA – the official Mile 0 and the “other end” of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail. We unveiled the new terminus in September as part of Pennsylvania Trails Month. The event brought together representatives from 6 counties in western Pennsylvania, all working towards a unified goal of completing the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail. The trail is 70% complete and we are working hard to complete our section in Allegheny County.
In 2021 we also kept things “flowing” along the Three Rivers Water Trail. We successfully raised funds to improve the Braddock Boat Launch on the Monongahela River which we will start in 2022. We also partnered with Cheswick Borough to add anew access point in Rachel Carson Riverfront Park along the Allegheny River which will open in 2022. We also updated the Three Rivers Water Trail Map & Guide so users have access to information about launches, paddle safety, and river conditions.
We have a lot on the horizon in 2022. We will break ground on a new trail segment in Brackenridge Borough along the Allegheny River. We started this project in 2016 and after several years of fundraising, community engagement, planning, and design, we are thrilled to begin construction in 2022, adding 1.5 miles to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail System.
We also are kicking off a lot of trail planning in 2022. Working with Tarentum and East Deer we’ll design a connection from East Deer Riverfront Park to Tarentum Memorial Park. We are also working in Cheswick, Verona, Oakmont and Penn Hills on new trail projects. The planning stage of trail development is where we add a lot of detail to earlier planning efforts, and it ensures that the trails are reflective of the communities around them.
We know many trail users will be interested to know about plans to fix “Eagle Lake” in Baldwin Borough. We know the ponding became a community jest, but we are diligently working to solve the issue by engaging engineers, coordinating with adjacent landowners, and fundraising. We are now projecting to go to construction in the late fall of 2022. While we are expecting that we will need to close the trail for approximately 2 weeks during construction, we will work closely with partners to get the word out to as many trail users as possible well in advance of the closure.
Also in Baldwin Borough, and thanks to a generous donor – an avid trail user and eagle enthusiast – Friends completed a master site plan for the riverfront. The park plan includes amenities and improvements for trail users, including eagle watchers, and for the area wildlife. As part of the planning process, we engaged trail users and community members through surveys and an Open House in August 2021. We invited visitors to explore the natural beauty of the space and tell us what they wanted to see in this riverfront space. We look forward to enhancing visitors’ experience along the riverfront. Trail users will begin seeing additions in 2022.
With many trail projects happening simultaneously, we are looking at better ways to communicate trail development progress with trail users and partners. We will soon add a “Trail Project Updates” page to our website, where the public can access more information about ongoing trail development projects and learn about ways to get involved. We will make an announcement when the new page is available.
Building a trail, especially like the Three Rivers Heritage Trail can be challenging, but the enthusiasm of trail users and our partners, keeps us going. From the Trail Development Team to you, Happy Trails and here’s to 2022!