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Enthusiasm sky-high for trail span's debut

| Friday, Sept. 5, 2003

A 70-foot-high trestle will open Saturday along the Montour Trail, with a festival and expectations that it will build tourism in McDonald.

"I am delighted to see this section (of the trail) completed because the McDonald trestle is the centerpiece of the Montour Trail," said Stan Sattinger, Montour Trail Council co-founder and founding president. "It is the centerpiece not only because of the juncture with the Panhandle Trail but (also) because of the scenery and the uniqueness of the trestle."

The trestle, open to the public beginning Saturday, connects 22 miles of continuous trail from Moon to the Venice section of Cecil.

"We have been waiting to do this for 14 years," said Dennis Pfeiffer, vice president of the Montour Trail Council.

Members of the volunteer-run council began renovating the old Montour Railroad trestle in October. Council members used $470,000 from a federal transportation-enhancement grant. Contractors redecked the 960-foot-long trestle and added side railings. About five miles of adjoining trail also were surfaced, from the trestle to Venice.

The council will celebrate the project with TrestleFest from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Festivities will include music, food and entertainment in the trestle area.

Although the partially completed Montour Trail boasts about 40 bridges and four tunnels, the McDonald trestle will be the trail's longest (960 feet) and highest (70 feet).

The steel bridge carried trains over the Robinson Run Valley during the early 20th century. The span looms over Noblestown Road, Johns Street and planned sections of the 30-mile Panhandle Trail.

"You just feel like you are on top of the world," Pfeiffer said.

The bridge will put pedestrians and bicyclists above the tree line in a densely wooded area for a spectacular bird's-eye view, Pfeiffer said. But for anyone concerned about the height, the 5.5-foot-high guard rails provide safety.

The opening of the trestle and adjoining trail mileage means that 39 miles of the planned 50-mile trail linking Washington and Allegheny counties are completed.

Heritage Public Library Director Connie Bongiorni, of McDonald, said she has watched work crews for months as they renovated the trestle, which is down the street from the library on Fourth Street.

"I know some of our people are very excited about it opening," she said, noting that her son, Justin, 28, of Baldwin Borough, has been anticipating the trestle opening for months.

"He will have more of an access to ride his bike," Bongiorni said.

Additional Information:

If you go

Event: TrestleFest, celebrating the opening of a 960-foot-long bridge that connects 22 miles of the Montour Trail

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Area near the trail, Noblestown Road, McDonald

Details: Hot-air balloon and pony rides; petting zoo; musical entertainment; food; and displays by conservation and recreation groups. Ribbon-cutting at 1 p.m. at the north end of the trestle. Free admission.

Directions: From Route 22, take the McDonald exit, then go 5 miles south on Route 980. Follow signs to the festival parking areas.

Also, two Saturday bicycle rides to the TrestleFest are planned:

  • From Clairton, meet before 7 a.m. at the Clairton trailhead on Route 837 for this 30-mile ride. Mountain bikes, helmets and patch kits are recommended because riders will traverse some undeveloped portions of the trail.

  • From Coraopolis, meet before 9 a.m. at the Montour Run Road trailhead, just off Route 51, for this 18-mile ride.

    In addition to TrestleFest, an inaugural bicycle ride is planned at 8 a.m. Sept. 27 at the trestle. Registration will begin at 7 a.m. for five different lengths, including a 44-mile round trip.

    Contacts: Montour Trail Council at (412) 831-2030.

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