Closing the Loop

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Posted by Administrator at 04/09/2019

Your rail trail experience is about to get a little more interesting…

Currently, the Ghost Town Trail connects Blairsville to Ebensburg, showcasing some of the area’s most eye catching features, along with a little history of the once-booming mining towns it passes through. Each year, 80,000 bicyclists, hikers, runners, bird watchers, dog walkers, and down-right nature lovers visit this trail to enjoy the outdoors the way they see fit. This 32 mile trail is one of the area’s biggest attractions, and it’s about to get even bigger. For the first time in eastern United States rail trail history, the Ghost Town Trail is just 5.5 miles away from having a continuous loop. Think of it, an extension 16 miles of length, connected to one of the top 9 hiking trails in the United States. Can you say… refreshing?

The newest section of the C&I Trail shown on the right, which connects to the Ghost Town Trail on the left.

The idea of a loop of rail trail sounded surreal in 1994, but a group of individuals promoting the development of trails and greenways in Cambria and Indiana Counties, known as the C and I Trail Council, was determined to make it happen. This group played a pivotal role in railbanking the C and I railroad corridor. (Railbanking is a voluntary agreement between a railroad company and a trail agency to use an out-of-service rail corridor as a trail) In the process, Northern Cambria Community Development Corporation (Norcam) stepped up to serve as a placeholder for the transition of the corridor property since theCambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority (CCCRA) was not yet created. A few years later, CCCRA came into existence and took ownership of the corridor in 1998.

The Ghost Town Trail and C and I trail corridor are owned and managed by CCCRA. New to the authority at the time, Executive Director Cliff Kitner took charge and soon opened the first 8 miles of this trail extension in 2017. Not long after, another 2 miles of the corridor was slated to be constructed. This current 2 mile project, what Ben ran on, is expected to be complete in the next coming months. Between the main 32 mile trail and soon to be complete 16 mile extension piece, trail users will be offered a 32 mile loop in total. That loop can be broken into smaller loops. And now, CCCRA is only 5.5 miles of funding and construction away from making this happen.

Find out how you can help support the efforts of this project by visiting the CCCRA website.