Delmont Visionary Committee works with IUP students on possible Heritage Trail routes | TribLIVE.com
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Patrick Varine

Members of the Delmont Visionary Committee would like to bring the Westmoreland Heritage Trail as close to the heart of the borough as possible.

Whether that is the trail, itself, or a spur that connects to Delmont’s downtown area, was the subject of a project that saw committee members working with Indiana University of Pennsylvania students, who have earned the Smart Growth Partnership’s Jack Robertshaw Fellows Award for their efforts.

“We did sort of a story map,” said Sara Ritter of Leechburg, a senior at IUP pursuing a degree in cartography and geographic information systems. “It’s an online way to look at the trail maps. We did a field study where we took a GPS unit and recorded barriers like telephone poles and things like that.”

The students developed mapping and analysis of alternative routes for the trail to take. Ritter worked alongside students Heather Lash of Muhlenberg and Austyn Diaz of Shillington.

The group evaluated several routes. One took advantage of higher elevations and avoided most privately owned properties, but that option crossed Old William Penn Highway, which committee members would like to avoid if possible.

A second route came right through Delmont’s downtown historic district, but with issues such as private property and barriers including fencing, trees, mailboxes and houses, the team deemed the route “too dangerous for the creation of a bike and walking trail.”

The recommended option was a route that comes into town along Church Street, before veering back north along Freeport Street, crossing Route 66 and passing through the Westmoreland Conservancy’s Morosini Nature Reserve. It follows Turtle Creek briefly and runs parallel to Old William Penn Highway before a few quick north-south detours as it heads into downtown Export. It also provides for the possibility of a trail spur along Greensburg Street.

Ritter said the biggest challenge in mapping a successful route is land ownership.

“If it’s a lot of private landowners, there could be a lot of issues getting approval from residents,” Ritter said.

The other challenge is the expense of creating a way for pedestrians to cross Route 66 safely, which will likely require either a pedestrian bridge or a tunnel underneath the road.

In anticipation of future costs, Delmont Visionary Committee member Annamarie Stackiewicz said the committee is accepting donations through the Westmoreland Heritage Trail.

“Checks can be made out to the Westmoreland Heritage Trail, with ‘Delmont Visionary’ on the memo line,” Stackiewicz said.

The group also created a Facebook page.

“I’ve been talking to PennDOT and they’re going to help us as well,” Stackiewicz said. “We have to show the maps to them as well and see what they think about it.”

The committee’s next meeting is at 7 p.m., June 6 at the Delmont borough building, 77 Greensburg St.

Ritter, Lash and Diaz all earned scholarships as a result of their selection as Robertshaw Fellows.

For more, see Facebook.com/DelmontVC.

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