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Redbank Valley Trails named DCNR Trail of the Year

Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Ron Steffey, executive director of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust, walks through a natural ice stalactite in the Climax Tunnels along a portion of the Redbank Valley Trails. Tuesday January 28, 2014.

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Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A section of Rails to Trails in Armstrong, Clarion and Jefferson counties has been recognized by the state for its beauty, and the volunteers who keep it spruced up were touted for their dedication to the job.

Redbank Valley Trails has been named the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Trail of the Year. It's the first year the DCNR has made the designation, picking Redbank over 17 other nominees.

“We're No. 1 right now,” said Ron Steffey, executive director of the Allegheny Valley Land Trust, which owns the trail.

Redbank Valley stood out from the others and was chosen for the award because of its beauty, the commitment of its volunteers which helped speed trail development, and its connection to other trail systems, DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti said in a release.

The recognition comes on the heels of a $500,000 grant received by the land trust last month to develop the trail in Porter and Madison townships. A portion of the grant money will be used to repair the Climax Tunnel, which borders Armstrong and Clarion counties.

The 51-mile trail follows Redbank Creek, winds through sections of remote forest studded with bridges and stone arches. It connects to commercial and residential areas.

Redbank Valley Trails Association President Darla Kirkpatrick — who leads the group that maintains the trail — credits its volunteers for helping to make it an award winner.

“Our volunteers are just ordinary people with extraordinary hearts. Every hour spent on the trail was time away from their families and homes. They represent the good in this country,” she said.

Rosebud Mining donated the use of heavy equipment for trail improvements and Grange Lime & Stone donated and discounted limestone.

That helped volunteers to make improvements at a record-breaking pace, Kirkpatrick said. She hopes the state's recognition will help garner more support for the trail and attract businesses and visitors to the region.

No one would have expected this kind of progress and this recognition eight years ago, when the trail was an orphaned railroad line that nobody wanted to adopt, Steffey said.

“The railroad did not want it, municipalities did not want to have anything to do with the corridor, the state would not assume any direct responsibility and AVLT did not want it,” he said.

A year later, the land trust looked into using it for recreational purposes. After years of public meetings and recruitment of volunteers, the trails association was formed in 2010 to develop and maintain the trail.

Redbank Valley Trails connects to the Armstrong Trail and links to the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage to Washington, D.C.

“The work RVTA does and the partners RVTA has established is no miracle,” Steffey said. “It is hard work by dedicated individuals willing to work as a team for the betterment of the Redbank Valley Trails. I am ecstatic about the trails' success. RTVA made it happen.”

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

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