Water trail map opens access to Loyalhanna Creek

| Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 3:20 p.m.

Jake Falbo, 27, of Latrobe studied the map for a proposed Loyalhanna Creek Water Trail last week during an open house at Latrobe City Hall. Falbo said he came to find out if he can use the map to plan future day trips on the local creek.

“We fish, hunt, climb, boat and hike all over that area,” said Falbo. “It will be nice to know how far you are going, We always made out own route and we never knew how many miles we covered and had to guess how long it would take us. Now with this map, it will make it much easier.”

The Loyalhanna Watershed Association and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council conducted the event to promote the development of the water trail map of Loyalhanna Creek beginning in Ligonier and continuing to Saltsburg where the creek empties into the Conemaugh River.

Brad Clemenson, senior project manager for the council is creating the map as part of the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative. The two groups are working together to provide a trail map promote use of the 36-mile portion of the stream that passes through Ligonier, Latrobe and New Alexandria.

“We hope to create an interest in the community and get feedback about the proposed trail,” said Clemenson.

They want to connect the community to the outdoors and educate them about how promoting the area's natural features can be good for economic development.

“This water trail map is an easy way to get something done and have a product that will add value and build revenue to help communities along the corridor,” said Clemenson.

Clemenson said people may not even be aware that the stream is navigable and even has some class I and II whitewater in places through the gorge.

Clemenson said he mapped the trail during several canoe trips down the Loyalhanna this past spring and summer.

“We want the guide to be user-friendly,” said Clemenson about the proposed tri-fold handout that would include a full color map on one side. The other side of the flyer will provide information about access points, locations of rapids and water hazards, scenic views and fishing opportunities along the stream.

The water trail begins at Loyalhanna Nature Trail access point located along Route 30 in Ligonier.

“We already have parking there and easy access to the Loyalhanna Creek there,” said Susan Huba, executive director of the watershed association. “We already have a launch there,”

Huba said a grant from the Western Pennsylvanaia Conservancy provided the funding recently to build the kayak/canoe launch near the swinging bridge in the Ligonoier nature park.

The one-mile loop nature trail is located along the delayed harvest section of the Loyalhanna Creek.

Huba said new picnic tables were also placed along the trail, part of a Boy Scout Eagle project and contribution from Trout Unimilted.

“This stream is a great natural resource,” said Huba. “We want to make it more visible and use it to promote tourism in the area.”

People can take the map and start using it to discover areas of the creek that have been underutlized for so long, Huba said.

“We want to create more awareness for Loyalhanna Creek so people will become familiar with the creek,” she said. “We also want to make people aware of some of the pollution problems along the waterway, in order to help with efforts to clean it up,”

Clemenson and map maker Clark Fisher will take the comments and suggestions gathered at the meeting into consideration as they make final changes to the map. They hope to have the map ready by spring 2013 and plan to publish 3,000 - 4,000 copies and distribute them to the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau and Pennsylvania Boat and Fish Commission.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or dbrehun@tribweb.com.

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