Proposed trail linking Verona to Boyce Park gaining traction with residents
A proposed pedestrian/bike trail connecting Verona, Oakmont, Penn Hills and Plum is gaining traction with residents.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Verona resident Rhoda Worf said July 23 at a public meeting on the project. “Consolidation is key, and having all four municipalities contribute and help maintain (the trail) … will be a wonderful asset for each community.”
Officials from each community have been talking about having a trail from the Verona waterfront area to Boyce Park in Plum for at least three years. Environmental Planning and Design of Pittsburgh (EDP) recently started working on a feasibility study for the project.
Public input was heard by the EPD and members of the project’s steering committee during a meeting at the Penn Hills municipal building. Worf and about 50 other people participated.
“I think, if you look at any of the bike trails in this area, North Shore, the Great Allegheny Passage, stuff along the South Side all the way to Cumberland (Maryland), I think you see a lot of how it ties communities together and brings a lot of people outdoor recreation,” said Ken Schultz, a Plum resident and avid bike rider. “It brings economic development to some of these out-of-the-way places. It gives a lot of residents a great outlet for this inner connection that you don’t get a lot of.”
Some attendees expressed concerns about elevation changes and grading while others suggested starting trail groups within the aforementioned municipalities to help with the upkeep of their respective sections. Contacting local businesses as well as the towns’ chambers of commerce was recommended.
Worf proposed Dirt Harry’s Bicycles, a bike shop in Verona, to be one of the trailheads. Other trailheads presented included Milltown Park, Creekside Park, North Bessemer Park, Unity Center intersection and Steel City Rowing in Verona.
Three possible trail routes were unveiled at the meeting.
All three start near a storage facility along the Allegheny River by Sandy Creek Road in Verona. It then travels along Penn Street to East Railroad Avenue by the borough building.
One option has the trail continuing along Allegheny River Boulevard to Plum Creek, down to Creekside Park in Oakmont, continuing to Milltown Road in Penn Hills, then to Unity Center Road and New Texas Road in Plum to Boyce Park.
The trail routes differ going around the Daily Juice Products facility near the Verona/Oakmont border and possible use of Allegheny Valley Railroad property. Two of the three options require a bridge to be built across Plum Creek.
Plans also show alternative routes to New Texas Road from either Unity Center Road or Leechburg Road in Plum, while another goes about an additional 1.5 miles off-road in Plum to avoid the aforementioned streets.
Options one and two are a little less than 11 miles and feature both on-road and off-road sections, while option three is nearly 13.5 miles and about 90 percent off-road.
Schultz said the third option may be the best long-term, but the other two could be constructed more quickly.
Mike Forbeck, Verona parks and recreation chairman and steering committee member, said there is no timeline for trail construction.
The study is being paid for through a $40,000 grant from the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County’s Active Allegheny Grant Program in partnership with the Allegheny County Health Department and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
“I think the support really stood out,” EPD Associate Katherine Kovalchik said. “For this many people in the room, it was nice to have all this support.”
She said there was a lot of feedback on the on-road versus off-road options, and they plan to explore other suggestions from residents.
An online survey is expected to be launched in August to gather more input, and another meeting is being planned for September.
Forbeck hopes to have a complete study report available by the end of October.
“I was really thrilled with the enthusiasm from the majority of the people,” he said. “A majority of them want it, and they understand the issues that are involved. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. From the comments we received, these (plans) are going to be tweaked.”
People can email their comments and concerns about the trail to Forbeck at [email protected]
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .