Anne Schleiden loves our local rail-trails. After moving to the Chicora area from Cranberry Township more than twenty years ago, Anne settled into the relaxed rhythm of rural riverside life. Walking and biking trips along the rail-trails in the area have become a staple activity for her household, allowing this outdoor enthusiast and her family to experience the beauty of our natural surroundings in all seasons.
Anne has explored a fair chunk of the 270 miles of the Erie-to-Pittsburgh Trail network, which, as the name suggests, is a corridor of biking and walking trails weaving through western Pennsylvania, linking our main urban centers to quiet country towns and pristine wilderness. She is most familiar with the Butler Freeport Community Trail, which winds through more than a dozen communities south of Butler, the Armstrong Trail, around East Brady and Kittanning, and the Allegheny Valley Trail, between Parker and Franklin. Her favorite section, though, is the peaceful 3-mile sliver between Foxburg and Parker. “It’s quieter,” she noted. “It’s a little gem.”
All that peace and quiet is wonderful on its own, plus it makes the occasional connection with other trail-users that much more special. Anne shared the story of one memorable encounter, when she was enjoying a jog on a picture-perfect autumn day. She happened past a young man in a wheelchair and his two companions, nodding a friendly hello as they passed each other. Anne turned around at her half-way point and came across the same group as she jogged back. The young man in the wheelchair had difficulty communicating verbally, but he had noticed that Anne had a similar fitness watch to his own and was eager to show her. So, Anne stopped and visited with the group for a bit, embracing the opportunity to connect with someone she might not otherwise have met.
The fact that the trail gave this young man an opportunity to get out into nature at all was not lost on Anne, either. Hiking, jogging, or biking along the trail is easy enough for many able-bodied adults, but Anne looks forward to a time when the trails are even more accessible for trail-users of all ages and mobility levels, and we swapped ideas on what that might look like. Bike share with electric and adaptive bicycles, additional safety railings, and more places to comfortably step off the trail and catch up were at the top of the list.
The potential completion of the Foxburg-Emlenton section of trail is exciting for Anne, too, as it would mean greater access to the beauty of the river for both locals and visitors, as well as a reliable connection between the towns for those who can’t easily use a car, and even more chances for folks to get out and meet each other. For Anne, the more inclusive and welcoming the trails can be, and the more people who are able to experience the peaceful yet eclectic charm of the area, the better.
Do you have a local perspective you’d like to share? Send me a note or stop in to Divani Chocolatier in Foxburg every Friday from 1-3 p.m. – and then try out the trail for yourself! Let me know what you love most about this region and what redevelopment means to you.
Selina Pedi is the Oil Region Alliance redevelopment manager. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.