Local and regional officials and funders celebrate at the September 4 groundbreaking at the Garrett trailhead.
Digging in: Celebrating the beginnings of new trail in Somerset County, PA
The skies cleared on Friday, September 4, 2020 just in time for a festive celebration of the new trail segment to be built in Somerset County, PA, beginning at the Garrett trailhead of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail, leading through the borough of Garrett, and onto a former rail bed. Later phases of construction will take the trail north through Berlin to the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Remembering the fateful day of September 11, 2001, "never in my wildest dreams," said Somerset County Commissioner Gerald Walker, "would I have predicted that I would be standing here today breaking ground for a September 11th Memorial Trail that will forever connect all three memorial sites."
David Brickley, founder and president emeritus of the 9/11 Trail, noted the tremendous support from elected officials over the years regardless of their political party. Brickley shared some of the history of founding the trail. including how he wrote to Ed Rendell, then governor of Pennsylvania, and heard back from Rendell's chief of staff that "the governor really likes the idea of the September 11th National Memorial Trail, and we're going to help in any way we can." Brickley also talked about visiting the Somerset County area with Ben Swecker and noticing an abandoned railroad corridor that could help connect the Trail from the Great Allegheny Passage to the Flight 93 Memorial. Brickley eventually talked CSX into donating the former rail bed property, allowing the 9/11 Trail to use any funding it acquired for actual trail design and construction.
Adam Shaffer, chief interpreter for Flight 93 National Memorial, applauded the power of the partnership that was formed to build the connecting trail. National Park System officials are working to identify other significant and appropriate locations that the 9/11 Trail can connect users with as it travels across Pennsylvania, he said, such as the site of the tragic Johnstown Flood. "We hope that cyclists and other outdoors enthusiasts will appreciate these American stories as they use the trail. These stories are full of courage, ingenuity, and resilience," Shaffer said.
Mike Walsh, deputy secretary of administration, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, recognized Brickley for his vision of the 9/11 Trail. "We at DCNR have learned a couple things during this pandemic," Walsh said. "One is that public lands are of extreme importance and value to the people of Pennsylvania. We have 121 state parks... these parks have seen attendance that has increased by hundreds of percent over this time last year." Parks are "an investment in our future, in our communities, in our families, in our residents," he said, and the return on the investment is high.
Also speaking at the ceremony were:
Watch Facebook Live video of ceremony
Read "Officials break ground on new section of September 11th Trail, CNN