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Ideas aplenty for proposed trail along Ohio River

Tony LaRussa
| Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 10:17 a.m.

Preliminary plans to stimulate economic development in four towns along the Ohio River by incorporating abandoned industrial sites into a trail system were introduced on Wednesday.

The proposed Ohio River Trail would link Monaca, Midland and Aliquippa in Beaver County and Coraopolis in Allegheny County.

That trail would eventually connect to a 334.5-mile trail being developed between Pittsburgh and Washington.

“Brownfields provide a tremendous opportunity, because the infrastructure is there,” said Dewitt M. Peart, executive vice president of economic development for the Allegheny Conference on Economic Development, who described the region as “a sweet spot” of opportunity.

The project is being steered by the Ohio River Trail Council, which has an 18-member board of directors that includes municipal officials and business leaders who have been conducting a feasibility study and gathering public input for 16 months.

Initial plans for the hiking and biking trail through brownfields along the Ohio River would include “spine” roads that connect business and residential areas to the riverfront, said Sean Garrigan, a consultant hired to examine possible reuses for the industrial sites.

Some of the proposals being considered include student housing along the proposed development areas, a transportation depot in the historic Coraopolis train station and a boathouse in the channel along Neville Island that could be used by Robert Morris University's crew team.

Matt Ward, a consultant with the Washington firm Sustainable Strategies, said among the keys to seeing the project come to fruition is “working like a region” to increase clout when seeking public funding.

Ward also urged local officials to avoid a haphazard approach and instead focus on developing a “strategic, ongoing process of charting a course to get funding.”

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or

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