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CACTC students pitch in to upgrade Connellsville trail

| Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Yough River Trail Council's additions to Connellsville's north trail head of the Great Allegheny Passage are well under way.

Within a week, two Adirondack shelters, permanent grills and a water fountain will join the SST (Sweet-Smelling Toilet) already on the site. The shelters and grills are being built by students in Jerry Matthews' buildings and trades class and Nordic Shreve's welding class at the Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center. The fountain is part of the city's Yough River Park improvement plan.

Connellsville Area School Board Director Gary Wandel called the project "a marriage of two interests. I'm on the board of directors of the Yough River Trail Council and we're always looking for projects, and once I got on the school board, I needed the community to see that the kids at the career and technical center could create good projects, something the kids could take pride in."

The shelters and a planned tent site nearby fill a need for trail users.

"There's no place to stay in Connellsville," Wandel said. "People who ride the trail have money, and we want them to spend it in Connellsville."

Wandel wants Jeffrey McWilliams' marketing class at the CACTC involved making signs and advertisements to post to websites and to develop into flyers "so people can see what's going on in Connellsville."

The YRTC purchased $3,000 in lumber from Stone & Company in Connellsville and Coastal Lumber in Hopwood. Students began work on the shelters in the shops.

More than 30 students and several YRTC members started work on the trail Tuesday.

The open side of the shelters will offer campers a view of the Youghiogheny River.

Ted Kovall, president of the YRTC, said the front of each shelter is 8 feet high and slopes down to 4 feet in the back. They will be 16 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Each will sleep six to eight people. Floors will be about a foot off the ground, for cleanliness and warmth. The roofs will be shingled. Each shelter requires six holes for anchors.

YRTC member Dave Smiley drilled the holes after a fast drive down south to obtain a part he could not obtain otherwise.

"The kids got the posts to fit the holes, and the shelters will be done early next week," Kovall said.

For those who pack tents, Kovall said campers "could probably fit a dozen or 18 tents between the yellow caboose and the blue building."

The welding shop is making four cast iron grills on stands to be located behind the Adirondack shelters. Kovall plans to contact Martin's Food Market and ask if it would stock small bags of charcoal for campers' convenience.

The water fountain will be in front of the blue building and should be operational soon. Kovall said it will have three levels: adult, child and dog. It will be frost-free to operate year-round.

Security cameras are in place, and they and the site are monitored, so Kovall anticipates no problems.

The next nearest free campground is 10 miles up the passage, at Round Bottom in Layton.

"Connellsville is a day's ride to Pittsburgh and the last day's ride from Pittsburgh. Most people ride 50 miles a day," Kovall said. He called the campers' amenities "a grand experiment on our part."

Both Wandel and Kovall hope the popularity of the campsite leads to a small motel for trail users and other travelers who want more comfort.

The Yough River Trail Council will outline its activities during the past 12 months and preview upcoming projects at 7 p.m. Monday in the Porter Theater at the Connellsville Community Center on Fairview Avenue.

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