Rails and Trails Prove Essential to Connellsville's Future
29 December 2013
Lori Padilla | for the Daily Courier
The Tribune-Review can be reached at 412-321-6460.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Today, the Daily Courier continues “The Way
We Were,” followed by “Where We're Headed,” a series of articles
tracing Connellsville's past through the eyes of residents who
lived it. From the 1930s through the New Millennium, “The Way We
Were” will give a human perspective of Connellsville's boomtown
years as well as its hard times and will end with a flourish,
focusing on good news — we hope — for the future of our town in
particular and Southwestern Pennsylvania in general. The series
will run through December.
Those who doubt that Connellsville is moving toward better times
need only look at the tidy new railroad station located along
The brick building was constructed with $1.25 million federal
stimulus cash obtained by Amtrak, whose Capitol Limited passenger
train stops daily en route to Chicago to the west and Washington,
D.C., to the east. The station was dedicated in 2011.
“Connellsville's improvements were on the radar, so the (train
station) project was funded,” said Michael Edwards, who heads two
agencies that are working to revitalize the city: Fayette County
Cultural Trust and Connellsville Redevelopment Authority.
With support from city council, the cultural trust and the
redevelopment authority have played a vital role in recent
projects including the Connellsville Canteen Café / ICV
Model Train Museum (opening soon) and construction of a $5.4
million, three-story Cobblestone Hotel (which will soon break
ground). The 56-room hotel will be built near Yough River Park on
a lot that once housed Connellsville Bottling Co., according to
‘Right place, right time'
Yough River Trail — which is a section of the 150-mile Great
Allegheny Passage — follows the Youghiogheny River through
Connellsville. The Cobblestone Hotel will be a stone's throw from
the trail, so Connellsville is at the right place at the right
time, Edwards noted.
City officials hope the hotel will attract family visitors,
business travelers and trail users.
“It will create local jobs and help the city's tax base,” Edwards
said. “We hope it will foster new businesses such as restaurants
and shops that will keep visitors here awhile.”
Those who prefer bed-and-breakfast accommodations to regular
hotels will also find Connellsville welcoming. Currently, there
are two — Connellsville B & B and Greenwood House B & B,
both on West Side. Two more are in the making: the Fox House (near
the former YMCA on South Side) and the former South Side Hospital
(across from Wesley United Methodist Church on South Pittsburgh
In recent years, Connellsville has striven to become trail-user
friendly. Signs clearly mark the trail's route through Yough River
Park and along Third Street so that bikers can safely enter the
section of trail that runs from Connellsville to Ohiopyle State
Park. A refurbished red B&O train caboose, located at the
trail head behind Martin's supermarket, offers tourism brochures
to trail users. There are maps, trail markers, restrooms and water
fountains along the path.
Local officials had input during the $14 million state project
that renovated Memorial Bridge along Route 119 a couple of years
“Through Connellsville's efforts, 6-foot-wide sidewalks were
installed on both sides of the bridge, making it safe for
bicycles,” Edwards explained.
The GAP opened with fanfare in Pittsburgh this past June and trail
use has steadily grown since, he added. Those interested in a long
bicycle trek can enter the trail at various points — such as
McKeesport, West Newton or Layton, to name a few — and travel,
unbroken, to Cumberland, Md. From there, they can continue
southward 185 miles to Washington, D.C.
All along the 335 miles of trail, there are sites to see — and
that's where Connellsville's renovation comes in. As each blighted
structure is eliminated, the city's outward appearance improves;
space is freed for future development, Edwards noted. Other
abandoned buildings are being renovated, such as the Aaron's
building on North Pittsburgh Street, thanks to local entrepreneur
Terry “Tuffy” Shallenberger.
‘Roll On, Roll Off' coming
In 2014, Amtrak will offer a service called “Roll On, Roll Off”
to enhance trail use, according to Edwards. A special baggage car
will be offered to passengers on the Capitol Limited.
“Riders will be able to roll their bicycles on, hook up and, at
their destinations, hook off and start biking,” he said. “We hope
people from D.C. will come here, stay over and hit the trail.”
The program had a trial run last summer that was very successful,
While most recreational bicyclists travel only short distances,
the trail's beauty is encouraging some to lengthen their distance.
“We want Connellsville to be a destination; a place that people
know and like. We are working toward having things to keep them in
our town,” Edwards said.
Read more: http://triblive.com/news/fayette/5301613-74/connellsville-trail-edwards#ixzz2owYgKZgH