Students to help county’s trail towns

Daily American
Monday, February 2, 2009

SCA group to work in local communities along the Great Allegheny Passage

By JUDY D.J. ELLICH
Daily American Staff Writer

A group of student volunteers will provide manpower to enable the Trail Town Program to work more extensively in the local communities along the Great Allegheny Passage.

 Trail Town Outreach Corps
Photo by Jason Pratt

Comprised of four Student Conservation Association conservation corps members and a project leader, the will work in six trail towns — Rockwood, Meyersdale, Confluence, Connellsville, Ohiopyle and West Newton — to identify economic development, conservation and restoration opportunities, according to Amy Camp, program coordinator, The Progress Fund and the Trail Town Program.

“The corps will be available to do market research, grant writing and assist with trail-related special events in the communities,” she said. “It is exciting that we are going to be able to expand our team.”

The national student association will partner with the Trail Town Program for the next three years. Three five-member crews will serve 10 months each.

“In deploying young people to provide the much needed manpower to drive the systemic change process, the project also provides a practical education for those young people,” Walter Burlack, association regional director, said in a press release. “Empowered by ‘real world’ experience, these interns become prepared for leadership roles in conservation and community action, now and throughout their lives.”

In January the corps’ headquarters opened in Connellsville. The first crew has already begun its orientation by touring Confluence and its trail-related businesses. The corps is scheduled to tour Meyersdale and Rockwood Feb. 23.

The program is “primarily an economic development program,” Camp said. It is funded through grants provided by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, Colcom Foundation and Growing Greener 1 Environmental Stewardship — Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, she said.

The project will extend the reach of the partnering programs to work currently under way to foster sustainable rural communities in the southwestern region of Pennsylvania, according to Trail Town Program Director Cathy McCollom. It will also be part of the program’s strategy to concentrate on business growth, she said.

“The deck is stacked in our favor for growth,” she said, pointing to the program’s 2007 marketing survey that showed an estimated $12 million in direct spending and $3 million in wages attributed to the regional bike trail.

The corps will be led by Elisa Mayes, who has a background in community consensus work and transportation planning. The other four members of the team are Robin Hale, Raleigh, N.C.; Tim Padalino, Franklin; Bryan Ward, San Diego, Calif.; and Mariah Wyman, Northampton, Mass.

The group brings experience in urban design, community agriculture, energy assessments and educational outreach.

The Great Allegheny Passage extends for 42 miles through Somerset County.