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April 7, 2013

Funding acquired to complete flood trail

JOHNSTOWN — A short missing link on the Path of the Flood Trail is expected to soon be completed.

Currently, a 3,900-foot gap from the Franklin Borough ballfield to the Staple Bend Tunnel exists. Recently, though, the Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority has acquired $80,000 in funding to finish the project. When work on the link is finished, the trail will be complete from Ehrenfeld to Johnstown.

“It just opens it up the whole way. ... People will be able to have a continuous hike close to 10 miles on the trail,” said CCCRA Executive Director Dee Columbus.

Chuck Cortese, an equipment operator with Butler County-based Brayman Construction Corp., cleared and excavated the hillside land, as a community service, when the company was working on the $16.2 million Strank Memorial Bridge relocation project. Cortese offered his free services after East Conemaugh Borough Council President Steve Coy mentioned the missing link. Coy and CCCRA member Rob McCombie have done a lot of the hands-on construction work themselves.

Money is now in place to make the final touches on the trail.

The Cambria County commissioners pledged $35,000 from their Marcellus Gas legacy fund. An additional $35,000 has been committed by the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy, which acquired a Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development grant. The national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is chipping in $10,000.

“We have all these partners and pieces coming together,” Columbus said.

The path follows the route of the 1889 Flood from near the St. Michael Historic District to Johnstown.

“It’s a uniquely historical trail, the Path of the Flood Trail,” said Cambria County Commissioner Thomas Chernisky. “When completed, it will connect two national historic sites at St. Michael and at the Flood Museum in downtown (Johnstown). It will connect with the Jim Mayer (Riverwalk) Trail and the Iron Street Trail that will go to the West End (of Johnstown). That’s what makes this, for me, I’m thinking, so important.”

Path of the Flood Trail also likely will be included on the September 11th National Memorial Trail, which will link locations where planes crashed during the terrorist attacks: Shanksville, New York City and the Pentagon. Shanksville was where United Airlines Flight 93 hit the ground after passengers fought back against al-Qaida hijackers.

“The story (of the flood) connects in a dramatic way with the heroes of Flight 93. ... We think it makes sense to bring that trail up from Flight 93 to Johns-

town,” said Brad Clemenson, a coordinator for Lift Johnstown, a collaborative community group that is working to get the flood and 9/11 trails linked together.

The flood path is already included on the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway.

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