Tour de Mon brings out bikers
Saturday got off to a cool, misty start, but the slightly dismal weather didn't deter many bicyclists from participating in the Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce' Tour de Mon 2012 along the Steel Valley and Mon Yough trails.
In its second year, the tour attracted more than 100 participants to the regional portion of the Great Allegheny Passage system.
Organizers say the event is designed to showcase the trails and surrounding amenities.
There was much to see and experience along the route, which stretched from the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area Historic Pump House at the Waterfront in Munhall to the Boston trail head in Elizabeth Township.
Besides the usual views of nature and industry along the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, all set off by splashes of color from autumn leaves and fall flowers, the trail was vibrant with activity.
The pump house was hosting a special heritage market workshop to coincide with the start of the bike ride.
“It's a historic site that's getting new life,” is how Sherris Moreira described activity in the facility along E. Waterfront Drive.
A relic from the era of big steel, the pump house now serves as a popular trail access point. It also hosts a weekly arts and crafts marketplace during the warm weather months.
Moreira said she believes its popularity will continue to grow, especially when the final link of the trail into Pittsburgh near Sandcastle water park is completed.
Glenn Pawlak, whose bike shop Big Bang Bicycles in West Mifflin was title sponsor for the ride, said he also sees the trail continuing to grow in popularity.
“In this particular part of the Mon Valley, the trail is going to bring back life, especially from a family perspective,” he said.
Pawlak said families will soon be able to get on the trail at the Waterfront and ride into Pittsburgh or head south to explore other parts of the Mon-Yough region.
Participants who pedaled south on Saturday very well may have encountered a group of 61 riders from all over the U.S. and Canada heading in the opposite direction.
Donald Annoino was leading the group on the final leg of its week-long journey from Washington to Pittsburgh.
Annoino, who works for the Montana-based tour group Adventure Cycling Association, said many of the riders, who at the moment were resting near the McKees Point Marina in McKeesport, had made the trek before and were familiar with the trail.
“We're very excited about the new section that's opening” near Sandcastle, he said.
A ground-breaking ceremony for remaining mile of the trail is to be Friday at noon near Haysglen Street in West Homestead.
Annoino said his group would finish its journey in Station Square.
Farther down the trail in Boston, there were droves of people. Some were on bicycles and many had just participated in a 5K race benefiting an Elizabeth Forward PTO group. There was a DJ, snack tables and plenty of smiles.
Mon Yough Trail Council president Judy Marshall said things had been even busier on the trail when the Washington tour group came through.
“This has been like a hub today,” said Marshall, who noted the MYTC is looking forward to building an addition to its welcome center along the trail in the style of an old fashioned train platform. “We have so much going on on this trail.”
The sun came out as the morning wore on, bringing out more riders.
Two cyclists who'd departed earlier when conditions were less favorable were Cheyenne Beach and Cristin McDermott. Goth are pediatric residents at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. They said they would not be deterred by the wet conditions.
“Once we commit, it's done,” said McDermott, who had just finished working an overnight shift at the hospital before starting the ride.
MYACC president Maury Burgwin said the event drew many riders like Beach and McDermott, who learned about the ride online and had no previous connection to the chamber or its member organizations.
“We're getting people from all over the region,” Burgwin said. “We look to turn this into a major event.”
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.