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Second phase of trail project could begin this year

| Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 1:21 p.m.

An extension that will connect the Delmont area to Slickville along the Westmoreland Heritage Trail might be open as soon as next summer, but it likely will be several more years until the trail reaches its planned terminus in Trafford.

Construction on the trail's second segment, which will stretch 3.7 miles southwest from Route 819 in Slickville to Route 66 north of Delmont, could begin in early October, said Malcolm Sias, project manager for the nonprofit Regional Trail Corp.

The estimated $1.5 million phase could be completed as early as next June. The second phase will open a nearly nine-mile path near the route of the Turtle Creek Industrial Railroad from Delmont to Saltsburg and a connection to the 17-mile West Penn Trail in Indiana County.

One of the main attributes of the next section is its proximity to the Beaver Run Reservoir in Salem Township. The trail group has an agreement with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County to include land near the reservoir on the path, said Sias, who also is the planning coordinator for the Westmoreland County Bureau of Parks and Recreation.

"It's a beautiful view and a beautiful place to be," he said. "That will be a very significant spot."

Delmont Council President James Bortz said the extension of the trail is great news for residents of Delmont, Slickville and surrounding areas. Bortz, who used to walk on a trail along the railroad when he was growing up, said the path provides another recreational opportunity in the region.

"It connects you to nature again," he said. It gets you away from the computer, and it gives them an avenue maybe to take the family out for a walk."

The nonprofit group received federal transportation-enhancement grants for the first two phases of the trail, which supporters in 2003 envisioned to be a 20-mile course from Saltsburg to Trafford. The first section opened in June 2008.

Sias said trail advocates knew the project could take as long as 20 years to complete. Even after this latest phase opens, the next one - to tie into a bigger population base in Murrysville - is on hold until more money is available and the trail organization can begin to negotiate to buy more properties, he said.

"If you can make that connection (to Trafford), that would be pretty significant, but that's a pretty long time in the future," Sias said.

Trafford Mayor Rey Peduzzi, the vice president of the nonprofit group's Westmoreland Heritage Trail chapter, has touted the trail for its potential role in a revitalization plan for the borough.

The expansion of the trail into Trafford would help to draw people into the business district and foster community spirit, he said.

"That's a valuable asset to any community."

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