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Meeting to discuss ATV trail plan | News, Sports, Jobs

Plans to create an all-terrain vehicle and multi-purpose trail system through six counties will be discussed at a briefing Tuesday at East Freedom. The meeting is open to the public and will take place at 6 p.m. at the Freedom Township Fire Station.

The Allegheny Ridge Recreation Association is spearheading efforts to create the trails using existing trails, such as old railroads, mine sites and logging roads, association president Doug Wagner said. .

During the meeting, ARRA representatives will discuss the already completed feasibility study that was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and map out the location of the trails.

According to the association’s plans, the trail network will begin in Somerset County and run through Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Center counties before ending in Clearfield.

Project coordinator Dave Hayes said the ultimate goal would be to have the trail run from West Virginia to New York.

Although the trail system is geared towards recreational uses, organizers said a benefit to communities would be the clearing of trails and access roads used for wildfire fighting and search and rescue. emergency.

Justin Wiley, a sales rep for Roundhouse Powersport in Duncansville, hailed the plan as a great way for family and friends to enjoy the outdoors.

Wiley said COVID-19 has led to more people being outdoors.

“ATVs are very popular here in West Central Pennsylvania and across the country for recreational and professional use,” he added.

The DCNR reported that more than 36,000 registered ATVs are in the six counties included in the planned trail network.

The idea for the trail system began when the Portage Water Authority closed some of its properties to ATV riders.

“A group of us came together to figure out how we can create more driving opportunities,” said Hayes.

After back and forth on whether to create a park or a trail network, the group decided on a trail network.

“In many cases, effective design and planning will benefit the environment by redirecting users away from sensitive natural areas,” said Wagner. “We want those who use the trail to have the best outdoor experience while protecting the environment.”

The group’s inspiration for the trail system is the Hatfield-McCoy trails in West Virginia.

“Being from northern Wisconsin, I loved the idea of ​​what it was up there where you could walk a 30 mile trail for breakfast or ice cream,” said Hayes. This network of trails connects hotels, resorts, restaurants, towns and more, he added.

The AARA’s proposed trail would be 175 miles from the start point at the National Flight 93 Memorial to the end point in Houtzdale.

It would include stops at the Johnstown Flood Museum in South Fork, the Alleghenies Lost Children Monument in Blue Knob, the Lemon House and Portage Railroad Museum, and the Horseshoe Curve.

When organizers first proposed the idea of ​​a six-county system, it was to give ATV owners somewhere to ride, but the more they worked on the idea, the more they realized the economic impact. what it could have on the region.

“We have started to focus on the economy of these cities which are in difficulty”, said Hayes. “This type of recreation is a big source of income for people, and we know these cities could use that money.”

Hayes found a study that the Hatfield-McCoy trails bring in $45 million a year and average $7 million in pass sales.

“If we could get even a fraction of the economic impact of the Hatfield-McCoy system in a year, we would be happy,” said Hayes.

There are plans to expand the local system, but for now the group is focused on creating the main trails and will look to expand the system once it is up and running.

“In fact, I have upcoming discussions with representatives from West Virginia and Maryland about establishing a tri-state connection,” said Hayes. “It will be about if you want to be included, give us the route and we will make it happen.”

The project will not use taxpayer dollars, but instead rely on funds generated from state ATV registrations.

The trail network will not be limited to mountain biking, organizers said, but will be open to horseback riding, hiking, biking and mountain biking.

Although no timeline for the start of the trail project has been announced, organizers hope to share more information at the public meeting and gather feedback from those who would benefit from the trails.

Mirror writer Cati Keith is at 814-946-7535.

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