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New hiking, biking trail to open on Earth Day in Ross

| Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

The non-profit conservation group that will lead construction of a hiking and biking trail park along Cemetery Lane in Ross has a completion date in its sights: Earth Day.

Township commissioners voted unanimously last week to hire the Hollow Oak Land Trust, which is based in Moon, to design two miles of trails in the yet-to-be-named park and manage volunteers who will build the trails. The agreement is for a cost not to exceed $3,220.

Hollow Oak already has conducted a terrain analysis and created a concept map for the 53-acre site near the township's new public works facility.

“The first phase gave us information needed to create an excellent trail system,” said Sean Brady, Hollow Oak's executive director. “Now we need to drill down and develop some specifics about trail locations. Basically it's the process of deciding things as simple as which side of a tree the trail will be located.”

After the trails are flagged, volunteers will begin actual construction under the supervision of Hollow Oak staff, Brady said, adding the focus will be on creating “sustainable trails that use the natural dirt and clay that already exists there.”

The park, scheduled to open Saturday, April 22, will have no playgrounds, ball fields or other traditional park amenities.

Maintenance of the new trails was among the major concerns when the commissioners approved the project.

“As far as maintenance of the trails, what's to be expected?” asked Commissioner Steve Korbel. “How will we be monitoring the trails?”

Korbel and other commissioners have raised concerns about adding more trails when the township has been unable to maintain trails in other parks.

Commission President Jeremy Shaffer said the group Walk Bike Ross, of which he is a member, has agreed to serve as “trail masters,” who will keep tabs on the condition of the trails and perform maintenance. He suggested the new park might serve as a pilot program for volunteers to “adopt a trail” in one of the other parks.

Commissioner Lana Mazur said although volunteers will build and monitor the trails, they remain the township's responsibility.

“This is Ross Township's property,” she said. “So I think it would fall under our recreation department.”

Brady said key to reducing the need for maintenance on the new trails will be controlling erosion caused by stormwater.

While some of the trail in the park will be easy to develop — wild game such as deer already have worn a number of paths through the woods that follow the land's contours — others likely will require more work.

The site's terrain allows for an easy-to-navigate trail along the flat land running parallel to the tributary leading into Girty's Run. But using that swath of land might pose the most difficult challenge, Brady said.

“The area near the stream is flat and wet,” Brady said. “To avoid creating a trail that easily gets muddy, the area might need some additional attention. We might even want to consider creating a boardwalk, which will make the area very accessible, provide a natural look and basically make it maintenance free.”

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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