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Economy growing along region's trails

| Friday, June 26, 2015, 4:21 a.m.
David and Donna Moore of Mt. Washington ride bikes through McKeesport on the Great Allegheny Passage. The couple started their ride in Homestead and turned around in Boston.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
David and Donna Moore of Mt. Washington ride bikes through McKeesport on the Great Allegheny Passage. The couple started their ride in Homestead and turned around in Boston.

Economic interest in the developing network of regional bike trails appears to remain strong.

Officials from the Progress Fund's Trail Town program say they continue to see their certified network of businesses growing in the Mon Valley and Pittsburgh area.

The Trail Town program, which addresses economic development in towns along the Great Allegheny Passage and other bicycle trails, expanded into Boston, McKeesport and the Steel Valley last year.

In that time, the program has added informational trailside kiosks and improved signage and markers, and has hosted public discussions aimed at making trail communities and businesses more amenable to trail users.

Trail Town project coordinator Courtney Mahronich said several new businesses have become registered members of the program's network recently, including locally the Northeast Paddle Board Company, which has expanded from Pittsburgh into Boston, and Studio AM art studio in Homestead.

The program is looking to install new bike racks in McKeesport and Homestead later this year through a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Trail Town's Will Prince said.

“It's gaining momentum,” said Prince, referring to economic interest in the trail. “The bike racks are going to be a great addition.”

Marty Lischner, who opened Waterfront Bike Rental this spring along the Steel Valley Trail in West Homestead, said he expects to open a second location in McKeesport on the Fourth ofJuly.

“We're booming over at the Waterfront,” Lischner said. “What's appealing in McKeesport is it's a wide open area that has no business coverage like mine.”

Lischner said he plans to operate out of a mobile facility under the Jerome Bridge to start. If all goes well, he said, he eventually may try to open in a permanent location. Lischner said he is looking at other trailside business opportunities that may exist in McKeesport, adding that city leaders have been helpful to him in setting up this latest venture.

Just up the Youghiogheny River from McKeesport in Versailles, another bicycle trail is taking shape.

Versailles council president Emerson Fazekas said the borough's new crushed limestone recreational path on an 18-acre site that runs parallel with the waterfront is nearly complete.

Work on the $49,000 project got under way earlier this month. The borough received a $41,222 federal Community Development Block Grant to cover most of the cost.

Fazekas said the trail will serve an immediate recreational need within the community and eventually be used as an alternate link between the Great Allegheny Passage and McKeesport Loop bike trails.

Fazekas said he believes the trail will make Versailles a more desirable community for young families looking to buy a home.

“This is something recreational for the whole family,” said Fazekas, adding that trail users may help spur business investment on Walnut Street in the borough.

Prince said the development of a trail in Versailles will strengthen the overall trail network.

“It's really cool having a trail on two sides of the river,” Prince said. “The improvements made on the Versailles side will inspire more people to visit.”

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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