A $6,000 trail repair sapped the emergency fund of the Roaring Run Watershed Association earlier this year and has trail officials worried about what could happen if strong storms further damage the trail.
Running alongside the Kiski River in Apollo, North Apollo and Kiski Township, the trail is one of the main draws that pulls visitors into the small towns.
Heavy spring rains caused a drainage pipe to fail earlier this year, washing out a portion of the trail and an access road. The fix was estimated at $12,000, with half paid by a gas company that uses the access road to reach conventional wells.
In the end, the watershed association had to hire a contractor for $6,000 for its portion of the repair, which was beyond the scope of its equipment and volunteers, according to Ken Kaminski, 58, of Apollo, president of the association.
It doesn’t take much to deplete the association’s annual $10,000 budget.
“If people realized, without the money we can’t continue on. We can’t maintain and upkeep Roaring Run park,” he said.
Area businesses, too, are concerned and want to bolster the emergency fund and the trail’s profile and events.
“The trail is something special, and we want to see how we might help,” said Andy Evans, an Apollo-based accountant and president of the Apollo Area Business Association.
“People come from out of town to ride, walk, bike, fish and kayak,” he said. “We would like to promote the trail and the river with more events.”
The group is exploring a festival and other possibilities to help raise money to maintain the trail.
It’s hard to imagine the association hit so hard given its history of securing grants for more than three decades to lay its network of trails: Five miles of main trail stretching from just outside of Apollo to Edmon in Kiski Township; the 1.5-mile Rock Furnace Trail along Roaring Run; and the 1.5-mile Kiski River Trail meandering from Apollo to North Apollo.
The parking lot is often full on summer weekends, attracting 2,500 to 3,000 walkers, paddlers and cyclists, according to the association.
Unlike other trails owned by local governments, such as the Butler-Freeport Community Trail, which is owned by Buffalo Township, the Roaring Run Trail is owned by a small nonprofit, the watershed association, with volunteers who maintain the trail, cut the grass and keep the trail smooth for bikes and walkers.
“We rely on donations; we get no government money,” Kaminski said.
Sure, the Roaring Run Watershed Association secured grants to buy land and build the trail, but there isn’t much government help for trail maintenance.
Kaminski is concerned that another unexpected expense, such as another trail wash-out, would be difficult to deal with given the depleted emergency fund.