It took almost four decades to build what now is known as the Great Allegheny Passage. It is a remarkable 150-mile trail that connects with the 184.5-mile C&O Canal Towpath in Cumberland, Md., and makes possible a bicycling trip between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. The GAP officially opens tomorrow — Saturday, June 15.
Building the GAP seemed like an insurmountable challenge when the project was conceived, from finding the right name for the trail to finding funding to reconstruct the Big Savage Tunnel, the longest tunnel on the trail. Linda McKenna Boxx, president of the Allegheny Trail Alliance, a coalition of rail-trail organizations that built and maintains the trail, told the PG’s Larry Walsh, “Getting the [$12.5 million] for the Big Savage Tunnel … was the absolute biggest challenge. It came close to not happening.”
But it did get done, thanks to audacious people such as Linda Boxx and Jack Paulik, who came out of retirement to direct construction through the Steel Valley.
According to the Post-Gazette, “Paulik’s tireless efforts and fund-raising success made the passage possible from McKeesport through Sandcastle, Keystone Metals and West Homestead. Thanks to “great support” from foundations, state departments of conservation and natural resources and transportation and Allegheny County, the Allegheny Trail Alliance was able to give Paulik the freedom to just keep building, knowing that the bills would be paid as fast as he could line up construction.”
The GAP has many highlights and attractions. Riding along the trail makes it possible to enjoy the natural beauty of the landscape and to satisfy intellectual curiosity about the numerous historical landmarks on the way. As the PG’s Larry Walsh says, “Every mile on the trail is a highlight.” Some of the most remarkable ones include: The Eastern Continental Divide (the highest elevation point of the trail), the 101-foot-high Sailsbury Viaduct, Ohiopyle State Park, the Mason-Dixon Line, the Pinkerton High Bridge, the bald eagles in Hays and many others.
Come celebrate the legacy of people who made the Great Allegheny Passage possible — a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at Sandcastle at 10 a.m. tomorrow. There will be a 7-mile ride from Sandcastle to Point State Park beginning at 11 a.m. and a 1 p.m. presentation and unveiling of marker at The Point.