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Great Allegheny Passage's final link to open with Saturday celebration

| Monday, June 10, 2013, 4:21 a.m.
The Feinstein family of Squirrel Hill and other cyclists finsish the 'final mile' of the Great Allegheny Passage, the last leg of Steel Valley trail to be completed in the full trek from Pittsburgh to the nation's capital.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
The Feinstein family of Squirrel Hill and other cyclists finsish the 'final mile' of the Great Allegheny Passage, the last leg of Steel Valley trail to be completed in the full trek from Pittsburgh to the nation's capital.

Bikers and trail supporters are expected to turn out in droves on Saturday for the grand opening of the short but significant final section of the Great Allegheny Passage trail near Sandcastle.

There will be no shortage of activities and attractions along the trail from the Waterfront in Munhall to Point State Park in Pittsburgh during Point Made!, which will celebrate the completion of the passage.

The 10 a.m. dedication and ribbon-cutting at Sandcastle will begin a daylong schedule of activities, highlighted by a bike ride to the Point beginning at 11 a.m., with the unveiling of the trail's new Western Terminus marker at the state park at 1 p.m.

Free shuttle service will be available.

There will be celebrations from noon to 10 p.m. at the Historic Pump House & Water Tower at the Waterfront in Munhall.

Wheels at the Waterfront will feature special events, parties, music and outdoor activities throughout the day.

At Waterfront Town Square in West Homestead, trail supporters will host the Pedal Party from 2-5 p.m., featuring the bands Rhythm & Steel and Meeting of Important People as well as a bike decorating contest. Many Waterfront businesses will offer snacks, games and giveaways.

The alternative-energy production group Zero Fossil will provide pedal-generated electricity for events along the way.

Those who pedal up river to the Point will find a variety of activities there with the ongoing Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Point Made! and related activities will be the culmination of roughly three decades of transforming 150 miles of abandoned rail lines between Cumberland, Md., and Pittsburgh into a bike and walking trail.

Developed in stages, the trail's last missing link was a short section through Sandcastle, under the Glenwood Bridge and across property owned by Keystone Iron and Metal scrap yard and Peter J. Caruso & Sons Inc. asphalting.

The final mile cost about $3.5 million to build, expensive compared to other sections of the trail. Regional Trail Corp. project manager Jack Paulik said some of the added costs are related to infrastructure features that are invisible to trail users.

For instance, he said, electric and water utility lines had to be moved about 10 feet away from an existing rail line to make way for the trail. Moving utility poles, lines and fire hydrants took time and money.

But, Paulik noted, “You won't know that when you're there (on the trail) but that's what we had to do.”

Riders will notice the 12-foot high block wall built around the scrap yard and asphalt plant, but there are unseen architectural and mechanical factors at work. The reverse side of the 1,200-foot-long wall is reinforced with heavy-duty steel mesh and cable to guard against damage from heavy equipment used by the businesses. The wall is anchored every 12 feet by steel beams sunk 16 feet into the ground.

“You have no idea the complexity it took to get it together,” Paulik said of the last mile.

Though the cost was high, he said the link should pay dividends to the Mon Valley by increasing bike tourism.

“It brings a breath of fresh air to the Mon Valley.” Paulik said.

Sherris Moreira, director of marketing and tourism development for Rivers of Steel, which runs the pump house, said investment related to the trail is continuing to expand in the Mon Valley. She noted the Waterfront recently spent $10,000 installing bicycle racks in the shopping center. She said her organization is pursuing a grant to pay for the cost of paving the parking lot around the pump house because so many cyclists are using it as an access point to the trail.

Allegheny Trail Alliance president Linda McKenna Boxx said she expects big turnout for the trail ceremonies.

Boxx said she plans to spend Friday night at a Waterfront hotel, and thats she and several dozen other trail supporters expect to return to the area that night following a weeklong ride along the trail.

The group started at the head of the C&O Canal Towpath Trail in Washington on Saturday and is on the 330-mile journey back to Pittsburgh. The towpath ends in Cumberland, where riders connect with the Great Allegheny Passage.

The first time she rode the trail in 1999, Boxx said, large segments were incomplete. “You had to get shuttled around or take roads,” she said. “This is the first time I will have done it completely.”

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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