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Yough Country Symposium to highlight trail completions

| Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

Connellsville native Paul Prestia will return to his hometown on May 24 to give the keynote address during the fourth annual Yough Country Symposium.

The symposium will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Yough River Park. Theme is “Connellsville ... At The Crossroads Of Many Trails.”

“With the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage set for June 15, Connellsville is looking ahead to the completion of the Sheepskin Trail and the Coal and Coke Trail. The Sheepskin Trail already links to the GAP. You can ride the two miles to Dunbar. Right now the Coal and Coke Trail is complete from Scottdale to Mt. Pleasant. One of the presenters at the symposium will present the proposed path to bring the trail from Scottdale in to Connellsville. There will be an engineer who will also offer suggestions for Connellsville becoming a hub for the trail,” said Michael Edwards, president of Fayette County Cultural Trust that organizes the symposium each Memorial Day weekend.

Prestia will present an overview of what is going on in Connellsville and his hopes and aspirations for his hometown.

“From my perspective as a former resident, what is happening in Connellsville and the region around Connellsville is like awakening from a bad dream. The region prospered when coke and coal were king and queen but suffered through more than 75 years of declining prosperity. The region is now waking up to a new era, with speakers at the symposium providing a wake-up call. I am impressed with the various ways the region is reinventing itself as a tourist destination. The importance that everyone in the community recognize and take pride in that development, and that the community as a whole support that development, cannot be overstated,” said Prestia.

Cassandra Vivian will discuss during the symposium how the Braddock Trail transverses through Connellsville. That is a driving trail that will be marked with signs in the future, commemorating all the different camp sites that Braddock stayed. The Connellsville Historical Society's 10th annual Braddock's Crossing of the Youghiogheny River will be celebrated and reenacted June 29-30.

There will be four panels during the day.

In the morning there will be one specifically for the trails, with Will Prince from the Progress Fund, Rob Ferguson from the Coal and Coke Trail and Jeff Antol, originally from the Pittsburgh area, now from Virginia, who has expressed interest in development in Connellsville as well as other individuals and groups. Brad Clemenson from the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Donna Holdorf from the National Road and Sheepskin Trail and Ted Kovall representing Yough River Trail Council, will be in attendance as well.

The second panel of the morning is hospitality, for those who may have lodging facilities or are hoping to open one. Food and restaurants will also be interested in this panel.

Prior to a catered lunch by Miller's Catering of Connellsville, the group will take a short walk up the trail to see the caboose that was completed last year by the Trail Town Outreach Corps.

There are two panels after lunch. There will be a tourism panel with speakers such as Vivian who has started a Cultural Trust in Mt. Pleasant, Jessica Kadie-Barclay of West Overton Museum and Matt Miller from the Polymath Park in Acme.

The second afternoon panel discussion will be general updates with Casey Sirochman, director of Carnegie Free Library; Vicki Meier of Highlands Hospital; Larry Buttermore, Connellsville native, author, and one of those who has taken an active role in refurbishing East Park; Leah Bierer representing the Greater Connellsville Chamber of Commerce and John Andursky, 2013-2014 Rotary Club of Connellsville president.

Karen Hechler, president of the Connellsville Area Historical Society, will be on a panel and a Lions Club representative is expected. If time allows everyone will be invited to take a walk through town.

At 7 p.m. a concert will be performed at the Edwin S. Porter Theater by The Sammy Brooks Band with jazz selections followed by a reception. The cost is $15 and people are encouraged to buy tickets in advance in order that the refreshments can be planned. Tickets are available at ArtWorks, 139 W. Crawford Ave. Visit the website at www.sammybrooksband.com.

Register for the symposium at www.fayettetrust.org. For more information contact Edwards at 724-626-0141.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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