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A nature lover's paradise

| Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Established in 1797, Dunbar Township has a population of approximately 7,562 residents and covers an area of 59.5 miles. It is said the township was formed at the Court of Quarter Sessions when residents of nearby Franklin Township, which was established in 1783, wanted to branch off, creating a new area and new township.

As set by the metes and bounds method of measurement and marking, the township lines are the Youghiogheny River to the north, separating it from Tyrone Township, with the townships of Wharton and Stewart to the south. The Youghiogheny River also is the east border, separating Dunbar Township from the townships of Connellsville and Springfield. The western defining measure is the borders of Franklin and North Union townships.

Dunbar Township's rich agricultural and mineral resources made it a banner township in Fayette County, one that was valued high when assessed in the late 1880s.

The township completely surrounds but does not include the borough of Dunbar, which was established in 1883, or the northern edged borough of Vanderbilt, which was established in 1903.

"I've lived here for years and I can't imagine living anywhere else," Dunbar Township resident Ken Simmons said. "We moved here when I was a kid and I always liked the area. Not a whole lot going on here mind you, but if you like fishing and hunting, this is heaven."

Fishing is a big draw to Dunbar Township, which plays host to waterways such as the Youghiogheny River, Glade Run, Gist Run, Ferguson Run and Tucker Run. But, perhaps the most famous in the area is Dunbar Creek that meanders its way through the township, drawing anglers from all over Pennsylvania.

"I've already talked to guys that have come to fish Dunbar Creek that were from our east," Simmons said. "I've always told anybody that would listen that that creek has some of the best fishing you can get, and I've done my share of fishing other places so I know."

Dunbar Creek is popular for both seasonal stocked fishing, with the upper end proving a favorite spot for catch and release fly fishing. Hunters flock to Dunbar Township to hunt Pennsylvania State Gamelands 51, part of which is located in the township. The area is also famous for hiking, with miles of hiking trails that take adventurers to remote scenic locations and sites of little hamlets lost to history.

A newer attraction and one already bringing in tourists is the Sheepskin Trial, a newly constructed biking and hiking trail in its infant stages. The trail, when completed, will stretch from Dunbar to Point Marion and will be completely located within the boundaries of Fayette County.

The Connellsville airfield is also located in Dunbar Township. The airstrip witnessed many changes over the years and serves as one of only two airway stops in the county. It is stated that around 1919, several local businessmen purchased a few acres outside of Connellsville to be used as an air service. In 1928, the Rand-McNally Standard Index Map of Air Trails depicted two airfields in close proximity to the location of the present day airfield.

Then in 1936, the City of Connellsville and Fayette County made an agreement to build an airport through the Federal Works Progress Administration, which allotted the groups $500,000 to construct a "municipal airdrome and aviation landing field." 214 acres were purchased and in all, more than $1 million was granted by the federal government for the initial construction of the airfield.

When WWII began to escalate, the U.S. government took over the airfield in 1941, and for the next four years, upgraded and expanded the airstrip, making it into a first rate facility. In July 1947, the government returned all its interests, improvements and equipment.

The airport experienced many changes over the years, with the most recent being the renaming of the facility, which is now known as the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport.

Industries have come and gone in Dunbar Township.

When constructed, Laurel Mall, located in the township, was one of the only indoor corridor malls of its kind in the area. Once a thriving center that housed dozens of shops, the mall lost several businesses over the years, but is now experiencing somewhat of a rebirth as an indoor flea market and vendor outlet.

Another landmark in the township is the Pechin Shopping Village. Once located in the village of Pechin in Dunbar Township, the original structure burned in June 2006. Still in the township, it reopened and relocated to the southern end of the old Laurel Mall complex.

"Everybody knows about Pechin's," Walt Connors said. "It's been around forever."

Several small villages are scattered throughout Dunbar Township, which houses residents who enjoy the area.

"I like living in the township," resident Ray Holsing said. "I was born in the borough of Dunbar, and that was a great town to grow up in -- lots of good people and there was never hardly any trouble -- but I also like living here in the township, too."

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