The Tri-county Rails to Trails Association has announced that physical improvements were recently completed on a new 7.2-mile rail-trail segment in Jefferson County, the Mill Creek Trail.
The association acquired a perpetual 15-foot easement on an old railroad grade from property owner Ray Calhoun in 2008, with partial funding assistance of $35,000 from the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The trail begins near the town of Brockway and currently ends halfway to Brookville near Allens Mills.
The flat, non-motorized rail-trail will be suitable for all ages for bicyclers, walkers, runners and cross country skiers. It is also excellent for bird-watching, since much of the trail meanders through wetlands.
The first step to open the new trail to the public is to repair a series of five bridges. This was partially accomplished in November by a volunteer group led by board member Dave Leske, who initiated work on the three worst bridges by removing 72 rotted railroad ties and replacing them with 125 news ones, as the base for wooden decks and handrails.
The Stella-Jones Corp. of DuBois donated the railroad ties and Apple Tractor of Brockway donated the use of a Telescopic Forklift, saving the association more than $5,000. “This project would not have been possible without their generous support,” said Leske.
The group is still seeking donations of pressure treated decking that measures 6-by-16. Additional financial support for the trail improvement project is being provided by a recent Glenn and Ruth Mengle Foundation grant.
The Mill Creek Trail will connect to the association’s 19-mile Clarion-Little Toby Trail, which runs from Brockway to Ridgway. The “trail town” project in downtown Brockway will provide signs to direct trail users to the new trail.
The group hopes to eventually complete this trail all the way to Brookville, so that it can then connect to the Redbank Valley Trail, which would enable a trail network of more than 80 miles, beginning in Ridgway and ending in New Bethlehem in Clarion County.
The Red Bank trail connects to the Armstrong Trail, and from there to the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage to Washington D.C. The group said this would be a magnificent accomplishment, and all that is stopping them is a short segment from Allen’s Mills to Brookville.
Tri-county Rails to Trails is composed of an all-volunteer board and local donations are essential to creating and maintaining these recreational trails.
Association President Ben Zappa said: “While government grants are often used to develop trails, this is not true for ongoing maintenance, which requires thousands of dollars per year. All trail users should consider making a year-end holiday donation to help ensure their future . . . these trails are yours.” He said donations can be made online at www.tricountyrailstotrails.org.