SWPA trail council maintains its portion of GAP through donations, volunteers | Helping the Helpers
‘Most of our focus has been to make the trail as safe and pleasant as possible, to bring in as much business as we can into the area,’ said Yough River Trail Council President Ted Kovall
A collection box is pictured along the Great Allegheny Passage in Connellsville, Pa., on 12/7/21. The Yough River Trail Council is a non-profit that maintains portions of the trail (Uniontown Herald-Standard photo)
By Alyssa Choiniere
CONNELLSVILLE, Pa. — New visitors to Connellsville are likely to arrive via the Great Allegheny Passage, and the Yough River Trail Council works to ensure the city makes a good first impression.
The nonprofit organization maintains a 23-mile section of the trail, from Whitsett to Bruener Run, collecting garbage, mowing grass, removing trees, resurfacing and beautifying the trail and two campgrounds.
“Most of our focus has been to make the trail as safe and pleasant as possible, to bring in as much business as we can into the area,” said Yough River Trail Council President Ted Kovall.
He said the trail has been a boon to Connellsville’s economy even during the pandemic. Kovall highlighted new businesses along the trail including restaurants, “mom-and-pop” shops, a brewery, bed and breakfasts and a hotel. Plans are being developed for a multipurpose events room and a new bike shop, he said.
Each year, Ride Allegheny participants bicycling from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. stop in Connellsville for lunch, he said.
- IF YOU WANT TO HELP: For more information, visit www.regionaltrailcorp.com/yough_river_trail/ or call 724-628-6078. Donations can be made by check to the Yough River Trail Council, P.O. Box 988, Connellsville, Pa., 15425.
The GAP is owned by the Regional Trail Corporation, and five organizations maintain portions of the trail. The Yough River Trail Council was founded in 1989.
Kovall said that despite the pandemic, the Yough River Trail Council was able to hold its three annual fundraisers with some modifications for social distancing and other mitigation efforts.
“So, we weren’t as impacted as most of the other groups were,” he said.
He said the GAP received more visitors throughout the pandemic, which meant there was an increased need for maintenance along the trail. Six skilled laborers volunteer their time, clearing between 100 and 150 trees every year, cleaning and maintaining a campground in Connellsville and Layton, and other upkeep projects.
“It takes two weeks to build a trail. It takes 100 to maintain it,” Kovall said.
Funds they raise go toward equipment and maintenance, including a $65,000 tractor. He said they recently ordered a $25,000 John Deere Gator, which will enable volunteers to transport chainsaws and other equipment to remote areas.
Last year, the organization spent $94,000, and this year, they are exceeding the 2020 costs, Kovall said. He said $93,000 of the money was spent within the county.
The organization also works with other organizations, such as the Connellsville Area Garden Club, donates annually to local fire departments and provides food to police, EMS, city maintenance and health care workers.
“We’re trying to give back to the community that’s given us so much over the years. We depend on the local businesses, the local people,” he said. “Now that we’re bringing in enough money to keep us sustained, we’re giving back.”
Their ongoing projects involve raising $19,000 to renovate the northern portion of the trail and a $13,000 project to repaint the painted and glass mosaic silos outside Youghiogheny Glass on 1st Street, which have faded since they were painted in 2008. The group started a GoFundMe for the project, which had raised $220 as of Dec. 9.
Alyssa Choiniere is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard. Readers may email her at [email protected]. Helping the Helpers is a cooperative effort between the Uniontown Herald-Standard and the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
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