Crews busy with extension of Allegheny River trail


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Photo by Jerry Sowden - Marv Muir (left) and Carl Nixon of Winters and Fleming road construction of Butler work several yards behind a paver Thursday afternoon on the bike trail extension. The project will extend the paved section of the trail through the nearly mile-long Kennerdell tunnel and Rockland Station tunnel.

The area's bike trail system is gaining more ground.

Crews are in the process of paving seven-plus miles of trail in a project that will extend the Allegheny Valley River Trail through the Kennerdell and Rockland tunnels.

The project, which extends the trail along the edge of the Allegheny River and through the tunnels and lush forests of Venango County, is expected to be complete later this month.

There will be gaps in the trail, according to Jim Holden, president of the Allegheny Valley Trails Association. There will be a three-mile stretch between where the trail leaves off in Brandon and where it picks up again north of Kennerdell.

Also, no additional access will be available for the new leg of the trail. Legal access points for the Allegheny River Trail can be found on Eighth Street in Franklin and in Brandon.

"We are inching our way through two retirement villages, Brandon and Sunnyslope," Holden said.

Although they have run into some opposition from local property owners who do not want the trail in their neck of the woods, members of the AVTA are firm in their belief that the trail expansion is beneficial to the entire area.

"We are property owners, too," said Judy Hanninen, AVTA treasurer. "We're out here for the fun of it. It does the community a lot of good."

Like the rest of the Allegheny River Trail, which begins in Franklin and twists its way along the river to Brandon, the new addition will offer a scenic view of the area's river and forests.

The trail is a graded and asphalt-paved surface, designed to withstand wear and tear caused by four-wheelers and other unauthorized vehicles that may find their way onto the trail. Barriers will be placed at both ends of the new trail to keep those vehicles off the trail.

Inside the Kennerdell and Rockland tunnels, the surface will be illuminated with white reflective paint. No lights will be placed in the tunnels, which reach about 3,000 feet each.

Although the tunnels have not seen activity in decades, they are safe to travel through, AVTA members said.

"Both of these tunnels are in good shape," Holden said.

The project is expected to cost $611,500. Funding for the project was made available through grants from the Transportation Enhancement Act or TEA-21 and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.