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City works to identify trail improvements

| Monday, Oct. 19, 2009

Pashek Associates is developing a Connellsville Gateway to Gateway Master Plan to identify trail improvements and economic development opportunities for Connellsville as a Trail Town.

Jim Pashek of the Pittsburgh firm presented an outline of the master plan to city council at its regular meeting last week.

Cathy McCollom with the Progress Fund said the Gateway to Gateway plan was funded by the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources matched by a Department of Community and Economic Development grant with the city, Connellsville Township and South Connellsville.

Pashek said Gateway to Gateway extends along the Great Allegheny Passage through Connellsville, from its northern to southern border, with special emphasis on developing Crawford Avenue as a "Main Street," enhancing the trail experience, improving the local economy and increasing the quality of life for both Connellsville residents and users of the trails.

"Towns along the trail are seeing economic opportunities," Pashek said. The planning process has taken about a year, with Pashek and others talking to stake holders in the community and coordinating it with the Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plan for the City of Connellsville, Connellsville Township and South Connellsville Borough, which is in draft form, as well as downtown plans and trail linkage, such as the Coal & Coke Trail and an inter-city loop trail. "We want to engage and blend all recommendations."

The draft master plan has been completed.

He said the plan brings the city "one step closer to achieving some of these goals."

Pashek discussed several broad recommendations:

• Strengthening Crawford Avenue as a "Main Street" by concentrating commercial and mixed-use redevelopment and facade improvements within a few blocks of the Third Street bike lanes.

• Strengthening the residential area north of Crawford Avenue by residential redevelopment, historic restoration and new park development.

• Creating bicycle gateways, one at the north and one at the south entrance on the Great Allegheny Passage. Pashek said attractive kiosks providing information already exist at the north gateway and at Yough River Park. The south gateway needs a kiosk.

• Improving the vehicular gateways at Route 119 and Pittsburgh Street and Route 119 and Crawford Avenue to welcome visitors and direct them downtown and toward trail access.

• Improving the streetscape on Crawford Avenue to encourage a safe environment for cyclists and pedestrians.

• Creating bicycle plazas. Pashek said a plaza on Crawford Avenue and Third Street could provide a safe place to store bikes and equipment while visiting downtown. A plaza also could provide air and a bike wash.

• Employing environmental sustainable design and construction solutions to protect the environment and improve the quality of life.

• Providing bike loops to connect commercial activities.

Pashek said converting Torrance Avenue to bike lanes at Yough River Park would continue the park atmosphere to Third Street.

At Third and Crawford, streetscape improvements could involve mixed-use development and extra parking, in addition to the bike plaza.

At Third Street, he described a master plan with the triangular city-owned park transformed into a commons with more parking added.

At South First and Third streets, near Head Start, Pashek described greening and an overlook. If permission from the property holder can be obtained, "When it's time to redo the street, shrink it and add rain gardens at the building. Enhance the overlook to the river."

He also suggested adding a second decorative arch to the south end of the trail, like the arch at the north gateway.

"How in the world do you do all this?" Pashek asked. He said not to expect everything to be done in nine months. Some aspects may not be completed for 20 years, and goals may change.

He suggested seeking funding for some goals, but said not much funding will be available in the near future, because of the past budget impasse and general economic conditions.

The DCNR will require council to adopt a resolution in January indicating that the plan has been completed.

"I think it's wonderful," Mayor Judy Reed said. "Thanks to all the opportunities from DCED and DCNR. It's taken nine years and now we're eligible for funding because we've got a plan."

A public breakfast meeting to discuss the Gateway to Gateway Master Plan will take place at 9 a.m. Nov. 3 at the Connellsville Cultural Trust, 502 S. Pittsburgh St.

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