Kiski Junction Railroad Trail party attracts officials from state, region


The estimated 225 visitors Friday afternoon in Schenley celebrating the new Kiski Junction Railroad trail was about four times greater than the population of the village in Gilpin.

Federal, state and local officials attended, including Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; state Sen. Joe Pittman; state Rep. Abby Major; the Armstrong County commissioners; government officials from Allegheny, Westmoreland and Butler counties; representatives from Sen. Bob Casey Jr.’s office and others.

Pittman and Major said there will be business opportunities and the trail will become a destination in Armstrong County.

The former owner of the railroad, Rosebud Mining president Jim Barker, bought Iron City beer for all. Barker said he and his family plan to use the trail.

Such a large trail party in the tiny rural village was proof that the Kiski Junction Rail trail is no ordinary trail.

“This is going to attract different people to the area and not just from the region,” said Armstrong County Commissioners Chairman Don Myers. “This could be a hub and a destination point.”

The 12-mile rail corridor and railroad, which will be ready for off-road recreational trail users before the end of next year, will ultimately link 140 miles of trails, and more. It’s a major link in the development of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail and other trails as well.

Armstrong County Commissioner Pat Fabian said the acquisition of the railroad opens up a lot of opportunities. He knows from frequenting the Armstrong Trails, which will connect with the Kiski Junction trail.

“I know how good it is,” he said.

The new trail will traverse the Kiski and Allegheny River corridor through long swatches of undeveloped wooded areas.

“This can be the most important outdoor junctions in Western Pennsylvania with all of the hiking/biking trails and water trails,” saidJim Ritchie, 78, of Oakmont.

Ritchie is a former treasurer for the Baker Trail, co-founder of the Rachel Carson Challenge, the current leader of the Ramblers walking group and a member of other outdoors groups.

“This is world-class scenery,” Ritchie said. “People drive hundreds of miles to go to Vermont to see what we have here. Now we need the infrastructure to support the visitors.”

DCNR Secretary Dunn visited the Schenley site because of the importance of the new trail and its connections to other trails.

As many railroad tracks line the rivers and former small industrial times in Western Pennsylvania, the recreational trails are adding vibrancy, business opportunities and a better quality of life, Dunn said.

“Along these trails, you can see hotels, restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, bike shops, bed-and-breakfasts and other small businesses,” she said. Dunn recently met a state resident with heart issues who increased his stamina by walking the rails-to-trails in his town. “There is no price you can put on health and improved quality of life.”

Recently, DCNR awarded a $700,000 grant for the trail’s construction. Earlier this year, PennDOT awarded Armstrong County with a $3.5 million grant to buy the railroad property.

Gilpin Township Supervisor Chairman Charles Stull hopes to seize the business and residential opportunities the trail will bring. He and the township are planning for it as they are in the process of reviewing their zoning ordinance.

“This will drive the local economy when people hit the trail,” he said. “Visitors will patronize businesses in Leechburg and other areas.”

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary by email at or via Twitter .

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