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1,300-mile bike ride to connect Sept. 11 crash sites

Mary Ann Thomas
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September 11th National Memorial Trail
Cyclists at the ribbon cutting of the Great Allegheny Passage to the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville in 2016.
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Sept. 11 National Memorial Trail

A first-ever 1,300-mile bike ride April 11 through May 3 will connect all three national Sept. 11 memorial locations to promote a system of trails being developed to link the crash sites near Shanksville, Pa., Washington D.C., and New York City.

In the works for 17 years, the Sept. 11 National Memorial Trail organization, along with others, has shepherded the inclusion of existing and the development of new trails to connect the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville to the World Trade Center memorial in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

“After many years of dedicated volunteer efforts and support in dozens of communities, we’re looking forward to sharing a trail designed to commemorate the tragic events of 9/11 and to celebrate what is best about America,” said Tom Baxter of Monongahela, executive director of the September 11 Memorial Trail.

The inaugural ride this spring will help the trail organization provide a more detailed guide to riding the trail, along with GPS points and highlights.

The entire 23-day bike sojourn is not open to the public, but portions of the ride will be open at select areas, including the Flight 93 Memorial on April 15 and the Pentagon on April 11 and May 3.

About 10 core riders for trip include members of the Sept. 11 National Memorial Trial Board, Tim Brown, a retired New York City Fire Department firefighter and a founding member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Deborah Borza of Annapolis, Md., the mother of Deora Frances Bodley, 20, the youngest passenger who died on Flight 93.

The ride will start and end at the Pentagon, traversing seven states — West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Maryland and Virginia — and the District of Columbia.

The trail exists as a patchwork of previously developed trail segments and secondary, less-traveled roads. In Pennsylvania, the trail spans 25 counties.

The route is accessible by bike, however, about half of the 1,300-mile trail is off-the-road trail. The goal is to identify and help develop more pathways, with individual communities, nonprofits and governments working together on trail segments.

Baxter, former executive director of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Allegheny County, is working to develop more trails in Pennsylvania and the four other states.

In Pennsylvania, about 60 percent of the September 11 trail route uses roads and 40 percent are pathways.

“Trail development happens slowly,” Baxter said.

The nonprofit currently is negotiating with private landowners, railroads and corporations to access land for trails off the road.

More than 500 miles of the Sept. 11th National Memorial Trail will wind through Pennsylvania, making it the state’s longest recreational trail when complete, according to Kent Taylor, a natural resource program specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Within two years, trail planner hope to complete the section connecting the Great Allegheny Passage trail in Garrett, Somerset County, to the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Taylor said.

A bicyclist now can pedal from Pittsburgh on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail/Great Allegheny Passage to McKeesport, Boston, Connellsville, Ohiopyle State Park and then to Garrett, Somerset County, which is about 100 miles.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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