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Blawnox working to become part of Heritage Trail

| Monday, March 13, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Gab Cody of Lawrenceville walks along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Pittsburgh in 2014. Friends of the Riverfront are now working to extend the trail through Blawnox.

Blawnox council is making strides to bring a walking trail to the municipality.

Courtney Mahronich, director of trail development for Friends of the Riverfront, is working with council to extend the Three Rivers Heritage Trail through Blawnox.

Friends of the Riverfront was founded in 1991 to expand trail systems and to boost economies in communities with trails.

The Three Rivers Heritage Trail runs about 24 miles through many Pittsburgh-area communities.

“This route will not be using Freeport Road or running along the rail lines,” Mahronich said of the proposed extension.

It would wind along the streets, but it would not be a dedicated bike lane.

“This route was chosen to minimize trail users' interaction with vehicles so they can pass safely through town,” she said.

The Blawnox section is an effort to complete the trail from Millvale to Freeport, and more widely, the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail.

“When complete, it would be roughly 250 miles,” Mahronich said.

As proposed, the route would enter Blawnox by Papercraft Avenue and extend to Water Street to First Avenue, up Center Avenue to Sixth Street, and then up Blaw to Pine avenues.

Still in initial stages, there is no cost estimate, Mahronich said.

Borough Manager Cindy Bahn said a trail could benefit recreation, ecology, economy and education.

Trail users spend money on snacks and beverages, as well as equipment and maintenance, she said. According to the Friends of the Riverfront website, an estimated 622,000 users of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in 2014 resulted in an economic impact of $8 million to the region.

“Local businesses could take advantage of trail users traveling local streets by providing refreshments, bike maintenance and related services,” Bahn said.

Because of its topography, Blawnox doesn't naturally lend itself to recreational activities, Bahn added.

“The proposed trail route takes advantage of the less steep portions of the borough,” she said.

Mahronich said educational signs are part of the proposal. The trail has about 42 signs that provide information on local history and ecology.

The route through Blawnox was designed in partnership with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Allegheny River Town Program.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach her at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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