No More Pinch at the Point

Mon Wharf Connector ribbon cutting, 6-7-24

One of Pennsylvania’s most popular long-distance trails celebrated a long-awaited and much-needed improvement on June 7 with the official opening of the Mon Wharf Connector in Pittsburgh.

The project creates a safer, more accessible link between the Point, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, and the Great Allegheny Passage, which extends from Point State Park to Cumberland, Maryland. To celebrate the opening, PEC joined a ceremony at the park.

The Mon Wharf Connector replaces an awkward and ugly transition that existed for more than a decade between the Mon Wharf parking area and Point State Park.

“It was really never meant to be a bike path,” explained Bryan Perry, Executive Director of the GAP Conservancy. “It was narrow and steep in some sections with a long drop-off toward the river.”

Two major pinch points, including a bridge pier that restricted the trail to just four feet, caused safety concerns and diminished the otherwise considerable aesthetic appeal of both park and trail.

Point State Park in Pittsburgh marks the beginning or end of nearly 1 million GAP rides each year.

“The Mon Warf Connector changed all that,” said Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The new design widened the trail to 10 feet and eased the grade on either end of the connector in order to improve accessibility. Trail users who are pulling trailers or operating a mobility device should now be able to navigate the Connector.

Point State Park is at mile 150 of the GAP — the starting point for riders heading south to Cumberland, and the final destination for those traveling the opposite direction. Nearly a million people ride the trail each year, bringing economic activity to trailside towns like West Newton and Confluence. Those trail users spend $121 million annually, supporting businesses like cafes, grocery stores, and bike shops.

As leaders gave remarks at the Connector’s opening ceremony, a steady stream of trail users passed by with smiles and an occasional wave. Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato said the attraction of visitors is great, but emphasized the value of quality trails for locals as well.

DCNR Sec. Dunn announces the official opening of the Mon Wharf Connector on June 7, 2024.
DCNR Sec. Dunn announces the official opening of the Mon Wharf Connector on June 7, 2024.

“Ultimately it’s about the people here,” Ms. Innamorato said. “It’s about the Pittsburghers who use this park, who use this trail system each and every day.”

Approximately 1.2 million people in the Pittsburgh area use the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system, which extends 33 miles along both sides of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers. Many enjoy the trail for recreation, but it’s also critical transportation infrastructure that provides nonmotorized access to work, school, and other services.

“That’s a great thing, and that’s what we want to see,” said Courtney Mahronich, Director of Trail Development and Government Relations with Friends of the Riverfront.

To learn more about the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and to view an interactive map, visit friendsoftheriverfront.org.