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Westmoreland trail group hopes to get good draw at Poker Run

| Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, 5:39 p.m.

When the Westmoreland Yough Trail Chapter of the Regional Trail Corporation holds its annual Poker Run on Sept. 1, it will mark the 21st year for the event.

The signs of the trail chapter's most successful annual fundraiser are visible along the section of the trail, which cuts through Westmoreland County.

The walking/biking noncompetitive event will start at the Arthur H. King Access Area of the Youghiogheny River Trail in West Newton. Proceeds from the fundraiser will be used by trail volunteers to maintain, preserve and enhance the Youghiogheny River Trail section of the Great Allegheny Passage.

“It is successful as a fundraiser because we have a lot of raffle prizes that are donated by business,” said Bruce Souply, president of the Westmoreland Yough Trail Chapter. “Last year we gave away over 160 prizes to 378 participants.”

The Poker Run consists of three events:

• A walking, jogging, wheelchair-optional, 4-mile flat course.

• A level 12-mile bike ride that runs south along the Youghiogheny River to Smithton Beach and back.

• An endurance 20-mile bike ride that runs south along the Youghiogheny River Trail to Whitsett and back.

All cyclists are required to wear an ANSI or SNELL approved helmet.

The Poker Run is not a race. Participants walk or ride at their own pace, taking up to two hours, to finish their course. At checkpoints throughout the course participants will pick a playing card to develop a poker hand. At the end of the course each poker hand is tallied and the person with the best hand in each of the three events receives a cash prize award. Afterward a raffle is conducted and all participants are eligible to win more than 75 door prizes of various kinds and values that have been donated by regional businesses and merchants who support the trail and what the trail brings to our area. A bicycle is the grand prize giveaway. There will also be a half-the-take drawing.

Souply said many people are unaware that the trail is not maintained by county or state workers, but by volunteer effort. The poker run is the major fundraiser for the volunteer maintenance of the 10.5 miles of trail that run through Westmoreland County. That section of the trail includes Collinsburg, Rostraver Township, West Newton, Cedar Creek and Smithton.

“People come from all around the southwest region to enjoy the scenery, smell the early morning air along the river, enjoy the camaraderie of the event and have a chance to win the prizes,” said Souply.

That maintenence is done by a core of about a dozen people who call themselves the Over the Hill Gang, ironically named for a group that is very active, Souply said.

“Just recently, we installed 20 Jersey barriers to prevent runoff from the coal pile to wash off onto the trail between 40 and 41 milepost, between Smithton and Van Meter,” Souply said.

The group does other such maintenance as cutting the grass and improving drainage along the trail.

“We're always looking for volunteers,” Souply said. “We work a couple hours on Wednesdays. It's a good way to get out and be sociable.”

To volunteer to help, stop in at the West Newton Station, email wytcnews@hotmail.com or visit www.bikewytc.org

The Poker Run entry forms may be picked up at the Regional Trail Corporation office in West Newton Station, from the bulletin boards along the trail, from the many supporting businesses in the region and on the website www.bikewytc.org. The cost is $20 per person, children age 10 and under $10. Each participant who registers before Friday receives a short-sleeved, moisture-wicking Poker Run T-shirt. The event is held rain or shine, no refunds.

For additional information, call 724-872-5586 or visit www.bikewytc.org.

There is no increase for event-day registration. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Event start time is 9 a.m.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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