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Volunteers band together for 47-mile trail project

| Sunday, April 22, 2001

Karen Robins' grandfather was the superintendent of the Montour Railroad, and now she and her husband like to take their grandchildren walking along the trail that follows the abandoned railroad bed.

About a year ago, Robins, who uses the trail in Peters Township, met John Hooton, a member of the Montour Trail Council.

'I had no idea about the involvement of the volunteer group,' she said.

Since meeting Hooton, Robins has become a member of the group, which is dedicated to creating a walking and biking trail that will extend 47 miles from Coraopolis to Clairton.

The nonprofit, all-volunteer group builds, operates and maintains the trail, which is paved with a smooth surface of crushed limestone. To defray costs, the group uses grants, donations and fund-raisers, such as today's scheduled Burgh's Pizza and Wing Pub 10K Run.

The race, which is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. with a 1-mile fun walk scheduled for 10:15 a.m., will begin at the top of the ramp adjacent to Cecil Park, off Route 50, Cecil Township. The event will include entertainment and refreshments.

Participants will run 3.1 miles east and then back again, said race organizer Tom Daily.

Organizers said they hope the course they have mapped out for the race will be a challenge to runners. Part of it runs through the old National Tunnel, a 600-foot-long tunnel, with a curve in it.

'Tom has taken his life into his hands, running through the tunnel and stringing lights for the race,' Hooton joked.

What to do with the old railroad tunnels and trestles will be part of the plan as construction begins on unfinished sections of the trail through Robinson, Mt. Pleasant, Cecil and Peters townships.

Mackin Engineering Co. of Pittsburgh has drawn up preliminary designs for the trail, but completion depends upon availability of funding.

Hooton said his group hopes to be able to complete 6.1 miles of trail from Cecil Park northwest toward Mt. Pleasant.

About 512 tons of crushed limestone, at a cost of $10 a ton, will be needed to pave that portion of trail.

'We not only have to build, but we have to maintain the trail,' he said.

Susan Schmeichel can be reached at or (412) 306-4527.

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