Pennsylvania Legacies #214: Much to Celebrate

PEC staff joined partners and neighbors at 2024 Celebrate Trails Day events across the state last weekend. On this episode, we share trailside conversations and sounds from the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and Duck Hollow Trail in Pittsburgh; the Sheepskin Trail in Uniontown; and the Mon River Trail in Morgantown, WV.

Celebrate Trails Day, held annually on the fourth Saturday of April, gives people across the country a reason to get outside and enjoy their favorite hobby — or pick up a new one.

In Pittsburgh, Friends of the Riverfront (FOR) organized three events along sections of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. The day began with a birding expedition, followed by an herbalist walk, and finally a group bike ride. These activities also provided an opportunity for the nonprofit to educate people about their trail projects and encourage them to get involved.

“What’s really great about that is they’ll get you out in the trail, but they’re the ones who know what’s coming and they’ll be able to tell you where that is in the development process and sort of give people a preview and give them the vision that we have,” said Kate Angell, FOR’s director of development and communications.

Allegheny County made its largest investment in trails back in 2022 with $22 million of federally leveraged grants, which has helped to add miles and close gaps. One such project, the Turtle Creek Connector, is a joint effort between PEC, FOR, and the county. Once complete, it will link to larger corridors like the Westmoreland Heritage Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).

In West Virginia, other trail groups and communities are advocating to link up with larger networks. PEC is part of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (IHTC) whose footprint encompasses parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and New York. Its vision is to establish more than 1,500 miles of multi-use trails, stretching from the shores of Lake Erie to eastern Ohio and down to Pittsburgh and the Appalachian foothills.

PEC Trails Program Coordinator Alexandra Long visited Trails Day events in Morgantown, WV, along the Mon River Rail-Trail system, and in Fayette County, PA along the Sheepskin Trail. Event organizers at both locations talked about how communities have embraced outdoor recreation and are seeing the benefits.

“In downtown Uniontown, where the Sheepskin officially isn’t built yet, there’s a coffee ice cream and baked good shop, called From Scratch,” said Bill Talkington with Friends of the Sheepskin Trail. “And the owner and operator of that asks me regularly, ‘When’s the Sheepskin coming through?’ Because she’s literally, it’s literally right outside her door. And so she can’t wait just as much as us.”

Trail work isn’t just about adding miles, but maintaining the ones that exist. The oldest sections of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail hadn’t been re-paved since they were built more than 30 years ago until Friends of the Riverfront worked with the city of Pittsburgh to freshen them up.

“So it’s actually really great, you know, that’s the thing is the trails are getting used, they’re getting a lot of love. We want to make sure that we’re putting that love right back into them to make sure everyone has an enjoyable and safe experience,” said Courtney Mahronich Vita, FOR’s director of trail development and government relations.

Doug Walsh is new to Pittsburgh and doesn’t own a bike but rented one to enjoy Saturday’s ride.

“What a resource this is, the trails here in a city. It’s incredible that the city [of Pittsburgh] has worked together to develop these trails and maintain them,” Walsh said.

Also on the ride were volunteer stewards who participate in cleanups, keep tabs on the trail’s condition, and alert the city about any hazards.

“I’m the eyes on the trail for things that need to be taken care of,” said one steward, Susan Westwood. “I love it because I’m passionate about trash. I don’t love trash, but I’m passionate about getting rid of it. So that’s my gig.”

PEC’s trail work extends across the Commonwealth. Last week, we celebrated the closing of one of the state’s highest priority trail gaps in Morrisville, adding a crucial connection on the Circuit Trails Network. We are also hosting several upcoming group rides.

Bikeout, a two-day bike-packing trip in the Philadelphia area over Memorial Day weekend, is still accepting registration at

The Public Lands Ride returns to Black Moshannon State Park on September 28. More information is at

And the PEC Environment Ride returns October 4-6 in Easton, PA. Registration will open soon.

For more information on what PEC is doing to promote outdoor access and recreation, visit

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