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Ribbon cut on new 1.5-mile section of 9/11 National Memorial Trail in Somerset

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Mary Ann Thomas

MARY ANN THOMAS  | Saturday, May 1, 2021

Somerset County and other officials cut the ribbon Friday in Garrett for the first 1.5 miles of the newly developed off-road section of the 1,300-mile-long 9/11 National Memorial Trail.

Currently, the recreational trail is a patchwork of about 55% off-road trails and 45% roads connecting the three 9/11 memorial sites in New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville. The trail is usable, but organizers plan to build new trails to keep as much of the route off roads as possible.

It’s a project that will take years and millions of dollars to complete.

The new trail segment cost about $900,000 to develop. It was financed by grants and donations, said Jeffrey McCauley, director of trail development for the 9/11 National Memorial Trail Alliance, a nonprofit group shepherding the development of the trail.

The trail dead-ends, but plans are in the works to extend it.

While 1.5 miles doesn’t seem much for a 1,300-mile trail, it’s the first new off-road section of the entire 9/11 trail.

The new segment also is part of the critical 20-mile trail connecting the Flight 93 memorial and the Great Allegheny Passage trail in Garrett, then to the C&O Canal trail, which takes riders most of the way to the 9/11 memorial site near the Pentagon.

That is to say that out of the three legs of the national 9/11 trail, the first leg to be completed with a mostly off-road route likely will be from Shanksville to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.

Ten miles of new off-road trail between Garrett and Shanksville is expected to be completed within the next 10 years. That’s due in part to a large land donation from CSX, McCauley said.

CSX donated two parcels totaling 130 acres. The trail alliance is raising money for more trail construction.

Somerset County officials and business owners are getting ready for the trail traffic and tourists. The trail is plotted to go through the small towns of Garrett, Berlin and Shanksville in the county.

“This is going to be huge and bring so much tourism to our area,” said Lindsay Pyle, parks and trails director for Somerset County. Berlin is already working on a street project with plans to accommodate the trail on new sidewalks, she said.

George Walker, owner of Whitehorse Brewing in Berlin, already has seen riders on the on-road portion of the trail that passes in front of his brewery and tap house.

“It’s going to be a big boost for us,” he said.

Road cyclists are treated to low-use roads that are flat with gentle slopes, surrounded by farmland and homes.

Great Allegheny Passage trail riders already stop by Whitehorse, which used to be part of an old family dairy farm.

Walker is a big supporter of the trail and has been helping to raise money to build off-road trail segments. Whitehorse will be offering a special commemorative glass and special “Liberty” brew to raise money for the trail and to observe the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 this year.

One cannot drive or pedal around the Berlin area without seeing directional signs for Shanksville, about 10 miles away.

Donations for the new trail segment were made by the Colcom Foundation, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Erie Insurance, Federal Lands Access program, Brunkhorst Family Trust, Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, Explore Altoona, Northeast Track Solutions, Brickley Foundation and Hidden Valley Mountain Metric Group.

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