Trail Town Program officials assess McKeesport's trail, infrastructure
Trail Town Program officials and stakeholders in the McKeesport section of the Great Allegheny Passage took to the city's trail and streets on Thursday with a checklist to assess how user friendly the Tube City is for cyclists.
The excursion was the first of several that will occur in local communities this month. Like McKeesport, the Boston section of Elizabeth Township and the Steel Valley communities will be added to the list of certified Trail Towns this year.
The first step in becoming part of the program, administered by the Progress Fund, is determining how communities can take advantage of opportunities related to the trail.
Allegheny County Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin, was in one of three groups on Thursday assessing McKeesport's trail and infrastructure.
“This is not good,” he said as he examined a bike rack on Fifth Avenue that had come loose at its base and was leaning and wobbly.
Grace Markum, president of the Johnstown–based hospitality consulting firm High Impact2, which is working with the Trail Town Program on the assessments, took note of the rack.
“That might be an easy fix,” she said. It was one of several relatively easy fixes she and others examined on the tour.
Trail Town fellow Courtney Mahronich examined an outdoor bulletin board along the trail near the McKee's Point Marina. The display was outfitted with trail materials but the display and pamphlets it held all looked weathered.
“That probably needs updated,” she said, making a note in her checklist booklet.
After the tour, participants discussed their findings at the city council chambers.
The assessments of the city were mostly favorable where signage, sidewalks and crossings were concerned. Consensus opinion was that the trail is fairly well marked within the city but could have better signs directing motorists to the trail outside city limits. Sidewalks, group members said, are mostly in good shape and crosswalks and signals are functional.
Some assessors felt speeding on Lysle Boulevard presents a problem for developing a bike-friendly image and there were concerns about safety at night.
Based on the discussions, the city received an average assessment on services and amenities for trail users. Convenience, drug and discount stores, banks, a supermarket and a cycling shop are not far off the Great Allegheny Passage and McKeesport Loop trails.
Restaurants are in town and near the trail, but assessors indicated there is room for more eateries.
Robert Baum of the McKeesport Trail Council noted there are plans to reopen McKees Café.
Linda Brewster of the McKeesport Trail Council said there is a street vendor in the city as well as a Subway restaurant on Lysle Boulevard. Brewster said the Subway allows cyclists to fill water bottles and use its restrooms.
Participants discussed ways to make the city more accessible and inviting to cyclists on weekends and after business hours. There are currently no hotels or lodging arrangements in the city for trail users.
Baum there has been talk of locating a hotel in the city but noted those discussions are only in their infancy. He and others said there has been some financial support for a proposed hostel near the trail at Gergely Park.
Maryann Huk of the McKeesport Preservation Society noted the hope of one day restoring the old Penn McKee Hotel.
The idea of designing an architectural tour of important buildings in the business district was floated at the meeting.
The marina struck a chord with some assessors who said it has potential value as a destination fishing and sunbathing spot.
Markum said the city should make it a goal to get trail users off the trail and into the city's surrounding businesses.
Trail Town program manager William Prince said the elimination of eyesores can make the city more attractive to trail users, noting an unsightly pile of dirt near the trail by the marina.
“We need to look at gateway moments,” he said, referring to points on the trail where users get their first impressions of the city.
More trail assessments will take place. The Boston Trail in Elizabeth Township will be assessed on Monday at 2 p.m., starting at the Betsy Shoppe at 1903 Donner Street. Assessors will meet on May 19 at 2 p.m. at the Homestead borough building at 221 E. Seventh Avenue for a tour of the trail in the Steel Valley communities.
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.
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