Shaler gets $200K in funding toward Three Rivers Heritage Trail extension
Shaler commissioners have taken a step toward extending the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, a multi-use, 24-mile trail with riverfront portions through the township.
During a July 11 meeting, the commissioners unanimously voted to accept $200,000 in funding from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s Livability through Smart Transportation Program. The resolution states that the funding will assist “with preliminary engineering and final design of a trail connection from the Millvale Riverfront Park, through Shaler Township, to the Etna Riverfront Park.”
“PennDOT is the entity that was awarded the grant from the federal government, so PennDOT manages the entire the process,” Shaler Manager Tim Rogers said at a June commissioners meeting.
According to the Millvale website, the Millvale Riverfront Trail is a 1.7-mile stretch of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail providing access to the North Shore, PNC Park and Heinz Field. Prior to reaching the Millvale Riverfront Park, the trail passes Herr’s Island and the $2 million Three Rivers Rowing Association boathouse.
The park contains a pavilion, marina and Three Rivers Water Trail launch area. Last winter, Millvale received a $40,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to add a play area, handicapped accessible features and other improvements.
Etna Borough Manager Mary Ellen Ramage said the connection will grant Shaler residents riverfront access.
“Both the township (of Shaler) and Etna are individually working on developing the trail on their sections of the riverfront and then we’re working jointly to make sure our residents can get to the riverfront, and pathway by pathway, have safe access to parking.”
Nonprofit organization Friends of the Riverfront purchased and donated land near the 62nd Street Bridge where a sand and gravel plant once stood for Etna’s Riverfront Park and trail.
The borough has devoted the last few years to restoring the property.
“It’s just a wasteland, and yet the view is incredible,” Ramage said. “It’s right on the bend in the river. You can see right into town. You can see in the other direction towards Aspinwall. And I’ve been down there at sunset and it’s incredible.”
While Etna borough owns all of its riverfront property, Ramage said one has to cross railroad tracks to access the trails.
“So it does have its challenges. We’re working with the company (Norfolk Southern) to design a way to safely get over those tracks.”
Shaler faces challenges maneuvering around railroad tracks, as well.
“The railroad is tough to deal with,” Rogers said at the June commissioners meeting. “… So part of the design is how do you move people by bike and peds — pedestrians — and keep them away from our wells and try to create enough space for our railroads? It’s a pretty significant project.”
Walk Bike Shaler, a pedestrian and cyclist advocacy group, posted on Facebook regarding Shaler receiving the funding.
“Most important here is that this will partner PennDOT, Allegheny County and the Friends of the Riverfront,” to work with Norfolk Southern, the message said. The group encouraged its followers to contact the railroad in support of the trail extension.
Ramage has hope for the future.
“So now it’s an opportunity to take something and transform it into something very, very positive for the community and habitat and transportation. People can ride the trail down to Herr’s Island. You can go to the ballpark and take your family.”
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.