Beginnings of the Great Allegheny Passage
The Great Allegheny Passage can trace its beginning to May 21, 1975, when the Chessie System ran a special passenger train over the Western Maryland Railway from Pittsburgh to Hancock, Maryland. Abandonment of the WM was imminent and railroad and conservation officials realized the potential of the line as a recreational corridor, (the term rail trail hadn't been invented yet). The train was a means of showing the corridor off to the conservation community, government officials, foundations and the press.
In 1978, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, purchased 26 miles of the railroad in the Yough Gorge from Connellsville to Confluence. Nine miles of trail from Ohiopyle to Ramcat, near Confluence, were opened in 1986. This was the best possible advertisement for the rails-to-trails movement; people flocked to it by the thousands, then hundreds of thousands.
Rail trail groups formed all along the corridor and it became apparent that a continuous trail was possible from Pittsburgh to Cumberland to Washington, DC. A Trail Summit was held in September, 1995. The consensus of the Summit was that the contiguous trail organizations should unite and the Allegheny Trail Alliance was born.
In 2001, the trail was christened the Great Allegheny Passage with its own logo, and later in the year 100 continuous miles were opened from Meyersdale to McKeesport.
When completed, the Great Allegheny Passage will be 150 miles long from Cumberland to Pittsburgh with a 52-mile spur to the Pittsburgh International Airport. As of December 2011, 141 continuous miles of trail are open for use.
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