Apollo Earth Day Dash to benefit trail expansion

Roaring Run Watershed Association board members Ken Kaminski and John Smail post race signs along the Rails to Trails to prepare for the  Earth Day Dash coming up on Saturday ,April 19, 2014 in Apollo.
Roaring Run Watershed Association board members Ken Kaminski and John Smail post race signs along the Rails to Trails to prepare for the Earth Day Dash coming up on Saturday ,April 19, 2014 in Apollo.
Photo by Louis B. Ruediger
| Thursday, April 17, 2014, 12:26 a.m.

Fundraising to connect the Roaring Run Trail in Apollo to others in southwestern Pennsylvania will be the focus of a Saturday event that features runners and walkers doing the Earth Day Dash.

The Roaring Run Watershed Association is sponsoring the 5K walk and 15K run to raise money for trail development in the region.

The goal is to connect the Roaring Run to the West Penn Trail near Saltsburg and the Hoodlebug and Ghost Town trails in Indiana County.

“There are only a few gaps, ranging from one to two miles, to connect these trails together,” association President Neil Andritz said.

The association is a non-profit tasked with maintaining the 653-acre Roaring Run Natural Area in Apollo. Since 1982, its volunteers have helped maintain about 20 miles of mountain biking trails and 12 miles of limestone coated hiking and biking trails, Andritz said.

The Earth Day Dash is the first of two races the organization plans at Roaring Run this year. The Race to the Moon will be a nighttime 5K walk and run on July 19.

Race Director Ken Kaminski said the fundraising events have become a great way to bring new visitors to the trails.

He said the wooded trail caters to novice and experienced runners and walkers. It features relatively flat and straight terrain for the 5K run and walk, but some steep hills for those tackling the 15K race.

“A lot of people come out to this trail to start training for the Pittsburgh Marathon, since it can get challenging at times,” Kaminski said. “But it's also nice for walkers because there are lots of flowers and things to look at along the trail.”

In addition to connecting the trails, the organization hopes to raise enough money to build an outdoor educational center near the Roaring Run Trail.

“Our area is basically reclaimed coal and strip mining areas,” Andritz said. “We hope to have the center available to show kids the environmental damages the industry caused and how we've remedied and fixed some of it.”

The Roaring Run Watershed Association conducted a survey in 2004 and determined 50,000 people visit the trail each year.

“The average trail user spends about $8 per day on food and drinks and about $200 per year on outdoor gear,” said Andritz. “That's a huge amount of money, which we hope is helping our local economy.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Kaminski said about 200 people registered for the race, and organizers expect about 100 more to sign up on Saturday.

“This has become a real community event that we really enjoy hosting,” Kaminski said. “For a lot of people, it's becoming how they kick off their summer.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337.

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