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Preserving and Promoting Community Trails
in Western Pennsylvania

Connecting the Rachel Carson Trail and the Harmony Trail

By Bob Mulshine

The western terminus of the 38.3-mile Rachel Carson Trail (RCT) is next to the Beaver Shelter in North Park. The Harmony Trail is along Wexford Run west of and parallel to Route 19 in Wexford. The Conservancy’s Winter Hike has used about 5 miles of existing North Park trails, public roads, and a rustic trail through the woods by Brooktree Road to connect these two trails for intrepid winter hikers.

Earlier this year, REI awarded the Conservancy a $10,000 grant to make improvements to the Harmony Trail. The focus of these improvements is upgrading that rustic trail from the Harmony Trail, over Wexford Run and up the wooded hill to Brooktree Road. Volunteers have done work to select the route and start cutting in the trail. A permit application for a bridge will be submitted with a target for getting it approved by spring. The bridge and the improved trail should be completed by summer 2017.

The completion of that improved trail segment opens the opportunity for the Conservancy to join the RCT and the Harmony Trail by blazing the existing North Park trails, the public roads, and this new trail segment with the familiar yellow blazes. This would add between 5 and 6 miles of mostly wooded parkland trail. Once completed, a hiker could start on the Harmony Trail in Pine and McCandless, continue through North Park, Crouse Run, the Hampton Nature Reserve, Emmerling Park, Agan Park, and end in Harrison Hills Park in Natrona Heights, covering a bit over 43 miles.

This extension of the trail will not change the route used for the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge. This super-popular hike will continue to be about 35 miles. The Challenge doesn't currently cover the entire trail because it has to start and end where there is ample parking as well as facilities for the picnic at the finish.

Connecting the two trails will give people who live and work in the area a well-marked and maintained trail for enjoying the outdoors. It offers people another way to get to North Park without needing a car. It adds another option for those people who like to do long hikes or runs. It opens up opportunities for hike/run organizers as well as individual hikers and runners.

This project has already relied on more than 15 volunteers to bring it to the current state. The remainder of the project, especially building the bridge, is going to require a lot more volunteer hours and sponsors. Projects requiring volunteers will be posted on the Events page of the website. You can subscribe to the Harmony Trail mailing list and get email notification of these events using the Mailing List box on the left side of the website.

What Are You Waiting For? Join Us on Social Media!

By Amy Nelson

We are stepping it up a notch in the social media space. In addition to expanding our Facebook presence, we've breathed new life into our Instagram feed and created an RCTC Twitter account. Social media makes it easy to stay informed on upcoming events and allows us to easily connect with individuals who share a passion for the outdoors.

Starting in January, a wide variety of Rachel Carson Trail Challenge participants will be featured on our social media pages. Whether you did the Challenge ten years ago or last year, hiked or ran, served as a trail steward or provided nutrition at an aid station — we want to hear your story. What did you enjoy most (and least) about the thirty-something-mile trek? How did your volunteer experience go? Let’s celebrate diversity and dedication by highlighting our very own hikers, runners and volunteers.

Stay tuned to our social media pages to learn about the many trail events happening in the Pittsburgh area. Share pictures with us from your trail explorations. Learn about training hikes and how to preview the 2017 Rachel Carson Trail Challenge course as well as the Baker Trail UltraChallenge course. Get inspired to do more outside!

Volunteers Improve the Baker Trail

By Patty Brunner

This year brought more wonderful improvements to the Baker Trail. In September, Shayne Hanz from BSA Troop 554 in Slatelick, PA completed a shelter near Corsica, PA (pictured) as an Eagle Scout project. Four other projects have been started, including a 30-foot bridge along the outflow of Crooked Creek dam that is being built as an Eagle Scout project by Matthew Stanko, also from BSA Troop 554. Matthew anticipates having the footers in by the end of the year and the bridge completed in the spring. Other scouts are looking at refurbishing the Summerville shelter and replacing various wooden trail signs.

The abutment replacement on the Crooked Creek covered bridge was delayed by DEP permit requirements. We hope to tackle it in December if the weather cooperates, but if not we'll wait for the spring thaw.

For 2017, the Keystone Trails Association has approved our Mahoning Reservoir reroute project for June 27-July 2, 2017. The Conservancy will host the KTA Summer Trail Crew for the week, providing all the volunteers a place to camp and three square meals. Please consider joining us!

Join the Quest in 2017

By Donna Stolz

In the new year, we're introducing an exciting new program! Commit to hike a total of 100 miles on Conservancy trails (the Rachel Carson Trail, the Baker Trail, and/or the Harmony Trail) within 365 days and earn a cool, colorful RCTC 100 Mile patch and certificate! You can hike any of these trails any number of times to accrue miles. Even better, participation in the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, as well as the Baker Trail UltraChallenge, and any of our training and orientation hikes will count towards your mileage total. Check the website to sign up in late December 2016. (It's totally free!)

Finding Our Boundaries

By Charles Brethauer

The Conservancy is about to do something it has not done in a long time: build a trail on property it owns. Although the RCTC stewards more than 150 miles of trails in western PA, nearly all is on land it does not own. These trails are maintained in cooperation with landowners willing to allow hikers to traverse their land.

The Harmony Trail is different. Located in Wexford, this trail runs along a quiet valley where the Harmony Short Line interurban trolley operated a century ago. Over the years the RCTC has acquired five parcels (about 11 acres) here and is now pursuing a longtime dream of connecting the Harmony Trail to North Park via Brooker Drive on the north side of Wexford Plaza. This work will include building a bridge across Wexford Run and a trail up the hillside to Brooktree Office Park. To ensure the bridge and trail are placed on RCTC property, we had the properties surveyed this past summer. With a perimeter of some 9,000 lineal feet to be surveyed and staked, it was a significant task. Surveyors placed more than 70 metal stakes every 200 feet along property boundaries. Tall weeds and brush were cut back in many locations to allow the survey crew access. White markers were later added to some locations to make them more visible when the vegetation grows back.

So if you’ve walked this area and wondered why these markers appeared, it’s another step towards making the Harmony Trail part of a local network of trails.

Many Trails, One Community

By John Stephen

Inspired by the natural beauty of Western Pennsylvania, the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy is launching Many Trails, One Community, a forward-thinking collaboration to build and enhance a world-class network of community trails throughout Western Pennsylvania.

The program builds on the RCTC’s tradition of hikers creating partnerships to connect destinations and assets with walkable routes. The vision is a trail circuit utilizing the North Country, the Baker, the Rachel Carson and Harmony Trails with spurs to bring nature and calm closer to more communities and create a world-class trail network and destination attraction.

Many Trails, One Community seeks to connect hikers with nature, connect local communities to a larger audience and connect people to something larger than themselves. The program will start with a focus on closing gaps in the circuit and developing spurs from the Rachel Carson Trail.

The 2017 target areas are:

  • Hartwood Acres to the Allegheny River (Indiana, O’Hara and Fox Chapel Townships)
  • Rachel Carson to Baker Trail Connection (Harrison, South Buffalo, Allegheny Townships)
  • Harmony Trail North (Pine, Marshall, Cranberry, Jackson, Adams Townships)
  • Allegheny Valley and Plum Creek Greenway (Harmar, Oakmont, Verona, Plum, Penn Hills)

The RCTC is alert to additional opportunities and our members may be aware of even more. But these four projects are manageable and doable.

Whether you’re a property owner, an active hiker, a steward of the outdoors, a local business, or an active family, Many Trails, One Community has a trail or a group that needs you. For more information or to join a working group please contact the RCTC Trail Development Program manager John Stephen at john.stephen@rachelcarsontrails.org or 412-606-7149.

Fall Stewardship Day a Success

By John Stephen

On October 22 the Conservancy partnered with the Friends of North Park, Trail Pittsburgh, and the North Area Environmental Council on a Fall Stewardship Day with Pitt student volunteers. About 20 volunteers divided into two crews to work on the connection of the Rachel Carson and Harmony Trails.

One crew worked to clear out a failing hiking bridge in the woods near the Scout Field. The second crew cleaned out trash from the northern stretch of the Harmony Trail near Route 910. Thank you to Pine Township and the County Parks staff for hauling the collected material away. Also special kudos to the Pitt students for committing on a Saturday morning to help us improve the hiking trails of North Park and the North Hills.

There will be more trail blazing, path benching, and woodland enjoyment opportunities over the winter and spring as the RCTC works to complete the connection of the Rachel Carson and Harmony Trails. If you're interested in volunteering with the Harmony Trail committee please email info@rachelcarsontrails.org!

RCTC Joins Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber

By Bob Mulshine

The Conservancy recently joined the Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber to further its mission of promoting community trails in Western Pennsylvania. The large membership and high level of activity of the Chamber gives us a great opportunity to spread the word on what our trails have to offer and solicit help in preserving and promoting them. In addition, the Chamber building is adjacent to the Brooktree Road segment of trail where we will connect the Rachel Carson Trail to the Harmony Trail.

Here's the Chamber's description of itself:

The Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber, formerly known as The Chamber of Commerce, Inc. was established on January 1, 2010 as a newly merged organization of the Cranberry Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Allegheny County Chamber of Commerce. Membership consists of 1,100 businesses and organizations who employ nearly 24,000 employees. The footprint of The Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber of Commerce covers three counties, Allegheny, Beaver and Butler and 16 municipalities. Membership ranges from sole proprietors to large corporations, nonprofit organizations and individuals who are interested in supporting our business community. The Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber offers Signature, Regional and Education programs and events include a Tri-County Business Expo, Drive to Thrive Golf Outing, Food and Wine Classic, Pittsburgh North Regional Career Fair, Nonprofit Conference and Taste of the Chamber.

People willing to volunteer to attend Chamber events to promote the Conservancy should contact Bob Mulshine at bob.mulshine@rachelcarsontrails.org or 412-741-0862.

Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy, Inc.
P.O. Box 472
Wexford, PA 15090-0472