It All Came Together: Armstrong County Celebrates Trail Extension

Armstrong Trails celebrated ten miles of new trail, including the rehabilitated Kiski Junction Railroad Bridge, on April 1, 2024. The expansion provides vital connections to regional and interstate trail systems and is drawing an exciting wave of new users.

Hundreds of people attended the opening ceremony, “Celebrating the Impossible,” including state and local leaders like DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn, Armstrong County Commissioners John Strate, Anthony Shea, and Pat Fabian, and State Representatives Donna Oberlander and Abby Major.

The addition extends the trail from Rosston in Manor Township, near the confluence of Crooked Creek and the Allegheny River, to the Kiski River in Gilpin. It’s part of a 52.5-mile corridor that passes through Armstrong, Westmoreland and Clarion counties.

The railroad bridge dates back to 1899. Crews have been busy removing the rails and replacing the surface with concrete, as well as adding a railing.

A $120,000 cash investment from the Trail Volunteer Fund made the project possible, money that came from a Pittsburgh Foundation grant. Completing the project was a community effort, said Armstrong Trails Executive Director Chris Ziegler. Hiles Excavating of Chicora and Holbein Inc. of Freeport donated equipment and crews to complete the trail; volunteers came out to lend a hand.

The Armstrong Trails system will eventually link to the Butler-Freeport and Tredway trails. It also will connect to regional trail networks like the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, the Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway, and the larger Industrial Heartland Trails network.

As the trail has grown, so has its popularity.

“The first day we opened the trail on this new section, we saw this gigantic influx of people and it was like, did someone turn the switch on?” Ziegler said.

Businesses like vacation rentals, coffee shops and breweries have opened as a result of the increased traffic.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn talked about how the trail also connects people and communities.

“From a statewide level, this is probably the most significant trail gap I’ve had the honor of closing this year,” she said. What gives Pennsylvania its greatest hope for the future, she added, is cultivating the best places to live, work, and play, “and that’s places where there are amenities like trails, where there are parks, where there are beautiful communities nestled along the banks of these rivers.”

Armstrong Trails already has funding for its next expansion, a 4-mile stretch to Leechburg. That project is expected to be completed in time for summer.