Full Article – http://www.tribdem.com/news/latest_news/casey-urges-funding-for-trail-link-between-flight-memorial-and/article_873063d8-204b-11e5-9b35-d75759ac6195.html
Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2015 7:47 pm
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is urging federal approval of an effort to connect the Flight 93 National Memorial with cyclists and hikers on the Great Allegheny Passage trail, and ultimately, with the other two 9/11 memorial sites.
With roughly 11 miles of abandoned railroad paths, the Great Allegheny Passage could be connected to the Flight 93 memorial – if land acquisition and millions in funding fall in line.
Casey is urging the Federal Highway Administration to approve the land acquisition, part of an application from Somerset County and the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance.
“There are so many lessons to be learned from the tragedy of 9/11 and so many examples of inspiration and heroism, and probably most people would look first to Shanksville for that kind of inspiration,” Casey said.
The alliance and the county have applied for approval through the Federal Lands Access Program for the project, which consists of acquiring 11 miles of abandoned railroad rights of way owned by CSX.
The groups also are asking for $5 million in funding, to be dispersed over four years, which would assist with the construction of a multi-use rails-to-trails connection from the memorial to the Great Allegheny Passage, said Brett Hollern, trails coordinator for the county Rails-to-Trails Association.
The county and alliance also applied for $250,000 in state funding, which should cover costs of purchasing the land as well as related legal and appraisal fees, he said.
“For us, this is twofold,” Hollern said. “It’s about the ability for people to get from the Great Allegheny Passage to visit Flight 93, and it’s about the significance that the site holds.
“It’s another means to attract tourists and the related economic impact. If people are going to come to see the memorial, we want to give them the means to do that.
“Then there is the connection of all sites,” Hollern said. “The overall thing is to honor everyone that lost or gave that day. That’s not to be lost in any of this.”
Best case, Hollern said, would be a two-year start date for trail work to begin.
But it all hinges on funding, and Casey said he believes the project is worthy.
“I think it’s appropriate to make a connection between that site and the opportunities we have in Pennsylvania – with a great system of preservation, the trails and the appreciation of our natural beauty that comes with that,” Casey said.
“I think there’s a natural connection. Any way we can pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much on that day, we should. This is another way to do that.”
And the concept to connect all three Sept. 11 sites through trails would help to preserve the nation’s story, he said.
“With Flight 93, those passengers and the heroism on that day was really in some ways more reflective of the country than any other site,” Casey said. “The only way that plane was going down was if a group of Americans without any military training could overtake some of the worst terrorists on the earth. It speaks volumes about the commonwealth and our country.”
The Somerset County commissioners already have funded a study for an initial link in the trail connection, which would follow an old B&O Railroad path from the Great Allegheny Passage trailhead in Garrett to Berlin.