Linn Run State park visitation on the increase

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 7:35 p.m.

Based on numbers tallied from a traffic counter, 250,000 people visit Linn Run State Park in Rector each year. Some come for the cabin camping while others visit the park to fish, hike or bike, according to Doug Finger park manager.

“Visitation is up and that means good things for the local economy,” said Finger. “Linn Run serves as a gateway to some of the best public land that Westmoreland County has to offer. It is near four state parks and 90,000 acres of state forest.”

David Yelle became a full-time ranger at the park in April. He joined the staff at Linn Run October 2011, as a trainee and continues to build relationship with the public and the community.

“Dave is an outgoing guy and very friendly,” said Finger.

Yelle moved to Pennsylvania after graduating from Baylor University in Texas in 1982, because he had family in the Pittsburgh area.

He said he worked in corporate security for most of his career. But, after a visit to an area state park he decided it was time for a change.

“After a conversation with a park ranger, I decided that's the job for me,” he said.

Within six months, Yelle was working as a water safety officer at Moraine State Park.

Eventually, he filed an application to become a law enforcement officer.

He said he completed training at the state police academy and Greensburg Southwest Training Center in December 2012.

“As a water guy, it is a challenge to learn how to be a mountain ranger. But I like the challenge,” said Yelle. “I can't imagine a better work environment.

Yelle said he is looking forward to continuing to make improvements at the Rector state park.

He said volunteers from Trout Unlimited and local Boy Scout troops will be working on a stream bank repair, trout stream restoration and native plantings.

Yelle is especially interested in preserving the history of the park, starting with the cabin camping area.

“The Linn Run cabins are important historical structures. Ten rustic cabins were built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps,” he said.

Last year new roofs were put on most of the cabins. Two are yet to be completed.

“Next, we plan to improve the shower facility and make it more user-friendly for overnight guests,” said Yelle. “We also plan to provide a coin-operated laundry facility.”

Finger said attendance has remained constant during the last 10 to 15 years.

“When the economy is weak, people tend to vacation close to home,” said Finger.

Park officials are conducting a special project this year — a treatment program for the Hemlock trees in the park. The wooly adelgid aphid-like insects are boring into the tree causing damage.

“The eastern hemlock is the redwood of Pennsylvania, it is the state tree.” said Finger. “We have to take care of them.”

Finger said many visitors return to the park year after year.

“Everybody has a Linn run story,” said Finger, “People love the park. When I am out on patrol people stop me and tell me how nice it is here.”

In addition to cabin camping, the park offers 6.25 miles of trails, picnic areas, trout fishing, horseback riding trails and snowmobile trails.

A popular feature is Adams Falls and the Flat Rock trail. Many of Linn Run's hiking trails connect to many miles of trails in Forbes State Forest.

Finger and Yelle said they both plan to focus on getting drivers to slow down while passing through the park on Linn Run Road.

“The purpose of the law enforcement ranger is to protect the people from the resources and the resources from the people.” Finger said.

One recent accident on the road took the life of an area teenager.

“We are trying to get the message out to slow down,” said Yelle.

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

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