By Robert L. Jennings., Jr., Esq.
On Tues. Sept. 6, Governor Tom Wolf and DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, announced that Foxburg-based Allegheny River Trail in Clarion County, Inc. (ARTinCC), had just been awarded $426,700 towards construction of the first mile of the bike trail north of Foxburg heading to Emlenton. The remaining 20% of the Grant application request for $533,000 will be supplied by cash pledges and labor and materials commitments by numerous local citizens and businesses. State Rep. Donna Oberlander, State Sen. Scott Hutchinson, and Clarion County Commissioners Ted Tharan, Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley, were instrumental in supporting this DCNR Grant Application, as well as numerous other local and regional officials, businesses, and planning agencies. Representatives Oberlander, Hutchinson and the Clarion Commissioners stressed the increased recreational opportunities from this project, the likely greatly increased economic activity as more and more bikers and visitors come to Emlenton and Foxburg to enjoy the beauty and amenities of this area, and the increased vibrancy and growth this project will spur throughout the region.
The grant was more than six years in the making, as the initial ARTinCC Board – Bob Jennings, Ann Marron and Fred McIlhattan, dec’d., worked to gain control of the land, raise money for experts and labor and materials, fully research and understand the complicated title history of the region, and obtain the kind of firm and committed political and public support needed to stand up against the hundreds of competing bike projects seeking the same funds from DCNR. Particular credit goes to former Clarion Co. politician Fred McInhattan, dec’d., whose boundless energy and optimism continuously pushed Bob and Ann towards successful efforts. Scores of supporters and local businesses are credited on ARTinCC.org’s website, as will be additional businesses and volunteers who have contributed over 800 hundred hours of effort from Oct. 2021 to date, to get the land ready for construction of the bike trail. ARTinCC’s Board and non-professional volunteers are just that – unpaid volunteers, and this will continue during the grant award.
Funded Construction in earnest on the first mile of trail will commence after January, 2023, and be pursued to completion. At the same time, current efforts to meet with and hopefully negotiate easement agreements with the handful of landowners over the remaining 2.2 miles of undeveloped trail up to Emlenton, will accelerate, so that the entire 3.2 mile Gap soon can be completed. As with the first mile of trail, the remaining 2.2 miles will require meaningful expenditures for engineering analysis and proposals, as well as building materials. Now, however, is not the time to plead for funds; rather it is to give credit to the many local and regional players, whose support and advocacy have allowed us to go toe to toe with much larger and more populous regions of the State.