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$120K grant from Richard King Mellon Foundation to advance Sheepskin Trail construction in southern Fayette County

| Saturday, March 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A $120,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation will advance construction of Fayette County's Sheepskin Trail from the West Virginia border through Point Marion.

The National Road Heritage Corridor, trail project management partner, announced the grant on Friday.

The north/south trail will pass through 10 county municipalities and several small “patch towns,” according to NRHC executive director Donna Holdorf.

“The trail will bring significant opportunities for positive economic impact. There are businesses in some of the small communities already preparing for the trail,” Holdorf said in a release.

Barbara O'Neil, owner of Apple Annie's restaurant in Point Marion, said she looks forward to more “rail” traffic.

Bike riders pedaling along the Mon River Trail System out of West Virginia visit the 22-year-old establishment on Church Street, she said Friday.

“As soon as it starts warming up, they come here from Morgantown. I'm sure it (expansion of the Sheepskin Trail) will help us,” she said.

If her business picks up from increased trail use, she said, more employees might be hired.

“I am glad they (project coordinators) are doing it. It will help the town a little bit. We are a little town on the (Monongahela) river,” O'Neil said.

The Sheepskin Trail is a 34-mile rail-trail project planned to link to the north with the Great Allegheny Passage, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and the American Discovery Trail.

To the south, it will connect with the West Virginia Rail-Trail System and the American Discovery Trail.

In a release, Fayette County commissioners Al Ambrosini, Angela Zimmerlink and Vincent Zapotosky lauded the grant's contributions to county tourism plans and recreation opportunities for residents.

Additional funds and grants are being sought, Holdorf said.

In acknowledgement of the award, Point Marion's civic and community organizations, along with trail volunteers, will hold a celebration on Thursday.

A 4:30 p.m. trail walk will be followed by a 5 p.m. program at the Jordan Building, 26 Penn St.

The event is open to the public. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by calling 724-437-9877 or emailing info@nationalroadpa.org.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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