September 11th National Memorial Trail Brings New Energy to PA Greenways

September 2015 Inaugural riders Eric Brenner and Andy Hamilton (in yellow) have a lively discussion with Huntingdon Co. Commissioners Gary O’Korn and Jeff Thomas and Representative Irvin before the rededication of a First Responders Monument adjacent to Portstown Park. –HUNTINGDON COUNTY IS THE FIRST MAIN LINE CANAL GREENWAY STAKEHOLDER TO PASS A RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE SEPTEMBER 11TH NATIONAL MEMORIAL TRAIL

A recently unveiled national initiative will boost development along a portion of the Main Line Canal Greenway as well as other trail projects in Pennsylvania.

The September 11th National Memorial Trail is an evolving network of off-road multi-use trails, greenways and scenic roads and byways that link the three National Memorials dedicated to the memory of those who died in the tragic events of September 11, 2001; the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, the Pentagon Memorial in Washington D.C., and the United Airlines Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The 1,140-mile multi-purpose trail that is being planned was conceived days after the 2001 terrorist attacks during the Mid-Atlantic Governors’ Conference on Greenways, Blueways, and Green Infrastructure in Washington D.C. It includes not only the plane crash sites in Washington, New York and Somerset County, but will link to cities, towns and communities along the way that are home to local memorials and other significant sites that reflect that spirit of American patriotism, resilience and perseverance that brought our nation back from the tragic events of that day.

Formal development since 2004 included the formation of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance. Its sole purpose is to establish a memorial trail that will link the national memorial sites. The alliance is comprised of a diverse group of men and women, including individuals who have a direct link to the events of September 11, 2001 and representatives of organizations and local governments committed to conservation efforts, and trail and greenways development. The group funded the development of The September 11th National Memorial Trail – The Northern Pilgrimage through Pennsylvania Trail Alignment Study which was completed in the fall of 2015.

article-1-image-2The trail ties together existing trails along its route through Pennsylvania

The study’s purpose was to analyze potential trial corridors between the Great Allegheny Passage, the Flight 93 Memorial and the Delaware Water Gap with the objective of developing a recommendation for specific trail corridor that would form the spine of the northern leg of the overall triangular route connecting the three memorials (see map above). The proposed planning corridor roughly follows the Appalachian and Blue Mountain ridges and their related valleys through Pennsylvania. The study identified a trail corridor of off-road, multi-use trails that were already in place or in the planning stage.

The September Inaugural Ride included a major portion of the Main Line Canal Greenway between Johnstown and Harrisburg. Local bike clubs, municipal and elected officials, and other trail enthusiasts participated in a variety of ways including pedaling the route, providing nourishment and/or lodging along the way, sponsoring community welcoming events and police and fire escorts. The Mt. Union School District organized school assemblies to give their students the opportunity to hear from the riders and envision the future of recreation in their region.

Community leaders have been quick to realize the potential impact on their regions. In December the Huntingdon County Commissioners led the way by adopting a resolution supporting the September 11th National Memorial Trail, its passage through Huntingdon County, and the installation of signage in cooperation with the PA Department of Transportation. The Allegheny Ridge Corporation will be approaching other community officials along the route to seek similar support.

article-1-image-3Eric Brenner, Karl King, Jane Sheffield, and Andy Hamilton take a break along the Lower Trail to view remnants from the former Main Line Canal (left)

The private sector has also responded in support of the project. In the fall, CSX (Chessie and Seaboard System is an international transportation company) announced their donation of 130 acres to the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance that will help connect the trail. This undeveloped land in Somerset County will be used to close a 7-mile gap between the Great Allegheny Passage Trail in Garrett and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.

Nation Park Service officials have predicted hundreds of thousands will make at least part of the pilgrimage annually.