The 2019 Pennsylvania Annual Trails Report is now available to view. The report highlights the gaps in regionally significant trail systems and efforts to close the gaps, in addition to highlighting trail planning, acquisition, development, and rehabilitation projects supported with DCNR and other state grants. The report also features the trail of the year, river of the year and other trail information. Read the full report.
Pennsylvania’s 2020 Trail of the Year event was held on September 2. Local supporters joined DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn in Vintondale to officially mark the designation of the Ghost Town Trail as Pennsylvania’s 2020 Trail of the Year.
The 46-mile Ghost Town Trail stretches from Indiana to Cambria County and attracts roughly 80,000 users a year, making the trail a local as well as regional attraction. Only 5.5 miles of trail are needed to make the Ghost Town Trail the first continuous loop of rail trail in the Eastern U.S.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation has announced the fall grant round for projects proposing land acquisition, planning, development, rehabilitation, maintenance, equipment purchase or educational programs for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or snowmobile trails and facilities. Grant funding is awarded through a competitive grant application process. Applicants can apply between August 3, 2020, and September 30, 2020, by means of the Department’s online grant application portal. A brief recorded webinar on the ATV and snow-mobile grant program is available on the Department’s website. More information about these grant opportunities and the application process is available at https://brcgrants.dcnr.pa.gov
DCNR has announced that they are updating the 2014-2019 Pennsylvania Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan (PDF), which provided the outline and goals for the development of a statewide greenways and trails network.
The plan will be updated based existing data survey responses and input from external partners and stakeholders, a completed assessment of the 2014 plan’s progress, and feedback from specialized trail user groups.
The 2020-2024 trail plan will be a companion document to the 2020-2024 Pennsylvania Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. DCNR will be accepting comments on the draft trail recommendations and actions through Thursday, June 25, through an online survey.
The Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resourcs – Bureau of Recreation and Conservation shared the news that hikers, bikers, and cross-country skiers have 5.9 miles of new trail to explore in Westmoreland County. The Westmoreland Heritage Trail recently finished the Turtle Creek Extension with help from a $500,000 DCNR grant. Funding came from the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund. The funding leveraged another $1.6 million in matching dollars, raising the project investment to more than $2.1 million.
The Westmoreland Heritage Trail now covers 8.6 miles from Saltsburg to Delmont and 9.3 miles from Export to Trafford. A long-term goal for the trail is to connect the two pieces together into a single 22-mile trail across Westmoreland County.
The trail has seen increased use during the COVID-19 pandemic. During April and May of 2019, the trail averaged around 800 users per day according to a trail counter in Murrysville. In 2020, trail use has more than doubled to over 1,800 users per day. “We’re continuing to see our parks and trails being more heavily used as people seek relief from the stress of everything surrounding this pandemic,” says Brandon Simpson, Assistant Director at the Westmoreland County Bureau of Parks and Recreation. “One positive thing we can take away from this awful situation is the value and importance of accessible parks, trails, and open spaces.”
As with any outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic, confirm that a facility is open before visiting. Also remember to follow guidance on recreating outdoors such as recreating locally, avoiding crowded areas, and wearing a mask if you are in an area with other people.
On May 19, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced that May 19 was the opening day statewide for all All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) trails in state forests.
Dunn noted this is occurring several days before the start of the normal season – typically the Friday before the Memorial Day holiday – to reduce opening weekend crowding and provide more opportunities for social distancing.
“In most years, the opening weekend and other holiday weekends throughout the summer tend to draw large amounts of ATV enthusiasts to trails,” Dunn said. “While ATV riders ride on separate machines at distances farther apart than six feet, the parking areas will be crowded on the bigger weekends, including the opener.
“DCNR is opening the trails several days early to spread out the crowds and allow for greater social distancing practices as part of COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” Dunn said.
The opening date also applies to designated motorcycle trails in Bald Eagle State Forest, including a dual sport trail running through the Seven Mountains region and a trail for off-highway motorcycles on Shade Mountain.
ATV riding is only permitted on designated trails in Pennsylvania state forests. State forest roads, state parks, and state game lands are not open to ATV riding.
The DCNR website has the locations of the 11 ATV trail systems on state forest lands.
All ATVs in Pennsylvania — except ATVs used solely for business or agricultural purposes — need to be registered and titled. There are approximately 170,000 registered ATVs in Pennsylvania. All ATV registrations scheduled to expire through May 31 have been extended until June 30, 2020.
Rangers and forest district staff are actively patrolling and will enforce regulations.
People who live in areas still under stay-at-home orders should not travel long distances for outdoor recreation, and instead should look for opportunities close to home. ATV riders are encouraged to use the trail system closest to their home and to keep riding opportunities on private recreation areas in mind as well.
To help avoid exposure to COVID-19 and protect others, and still enjoy the outdoors:
- Don’t recreate in groups – go with those under the same roof, and adhere to social distancing (stay 6 feet apart)
- Wear a mask if you will encounter other people
- Take hand sanitizer with you and use it regularly
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow
- If you are sick, stay home