DCNR awards $204,000 to improve Yough River Park

Pennsylvania will invest $204,000 to improve Youghiogheny River Park in Connellsville, Fayette County, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley said today.

The funds will help connect the park to the river and stabilize the river bank, and expand trail amenities along the Great Allegheny Passage including secure showers and bike-washing facilities.

“For many years, communities turned their backs to the water, blocking access and polluting them through industrial practices,” Quigley said during an event at the park off Route 119. “Today we realize that the quality of life for our residents and the things that attract visitors to our communities are the opportunity to get to the water to paddle, take a hike on a trail and to enjoy quality green spaces.

“The improvements to Yough River Park should help give the area a terrific economic boost. It will make Connellsville a significant mid point for trail users between Washington and Pittsburgh, and a destination point for local residents to begin and end their day along the GAP,” Quigley said.

The Community Conservation Partnerships Program grant is supported by the Keystone Fund, a DCNR account generated from a portion of the state’s realty transfer tax.

The park is an important part of a special landscape known as the Laurel Highlands that stretches through five counties — Somerset, Westmoreland, Fayette, Cambria and Indiana. The vision of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative is to protect the unique character of the Laurel Highlands and recognize its communities as world-class heritage/recreation destinations as well as wonderful places to work and live.

The 6.5-acre Yough River Park borders the Youghiogheny River and the Great Allegheny Passage runs through it. The grant will help fund new playground equipment, a building addition to include secure shower stations and bike washing facilities, bathroom renovations, river bank stabilization — including some plantings and rock boulders — and creation of effective green spaces. An upper trail head will get a new parking area with signage, landscaping and lights.

Connellsville is one of the six designated Trail Towns in Pennsylvania including Meyersdale, Rockwood, Confluence, Ohiopyle, and West Newton. The Trail Town Program envisions a corridor of revitalized trailside communities along the Great Allegheny Passage that reap the economic benefits of trail-based tourism and recreation as part of a larger, coordinated approach to regional economic development. The Trail Towns Program is also a focus of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative, in which the Pennsylvania Environmental Council plays a lead role.

For more information about DCNR grants, visit http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/