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Grant denial might delay Heritage Trail expansion project

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

A $1 million plan to expand the Westmoreland Heritage Trail might be delayed after the project was denied a state grant.

County officials received word Friday that their application for a $250,000 grant through the Commonwealth Financing Authority, an arm of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, was denied, said Jeff Richards, county parks and planning coordinator.

“We were disappointed to learn we had not been awarded the grant,” Richards said.

Officials are trying to raise money to buy most of the Turtle Creek Industrial Railroad as part of a third phase of the rails-to-trails project. A draft agreement is in place for the county to buy the railroad property from the Turtle Creek Industrial Railroad Inc. — a subsidiary of Dura-Bond Industries in Export — for about $865,000. Richards said earlier this year he expects the property to cost about $918,000, including closing costs.

The project is anticipated to cost about $1.1 million, including land acquisition and initial designs.

Richards said officials are awaiting word on a $457,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Community Conservation Partnerships Program. He expects a response in the coming weeks.

If received, the grant would fund a large amount of the project, which currently has only a $35,000 donation committed to it.

“We need to get to $1 million,” Richards said.

The project would be a third phase of the trail. The first leg, which was completed in 2008, created a five-mile trail from Slickville to Saltsburg. The second phaseextended the trail 3.7 miles to Route 66 north of Delmont. It opened earlier this fall.

The trail would run from Lincoln Avenue in Export through Murrysville and end near the new Trafford Veterans Memorial Bridge. It would run near boundaries for B-Y Park in Trafford, Valley Park in Monroeville and Duff Park in Murrysville. Officials have said they hope to have the land acquired by late 2014 and begin work on the trail in 2015. The proposal calls for the trail to be expanded in three-mile segments beginning in 2016, with completion estimated for 2020.

Betsy Aiken, chairwoman of Murrysville Trail Alliance, said she was disappointed that the grant application was denied. Aiken said the project would enhance the communities it crosses through.

“The project will bring wonderful things to all the involved communities,” Aiken said. “It will bring not only recreational amenities but an economic stimulus.

“The sooner we're able to move forward, the better.”

Staff writer Chris Foreman contributed to this report. Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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