The Somerset County Rails to Trails Association (SCRTA) is a nonprofit organization formed to assist with development along the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) through the entirety of Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In 1987, Hank Parke formed SCRTA with Greg Chapelli, Executive Director of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, and local Rockwood attorney George Kaufman. Parke saw the potential for a rail-trail extending from Ohiopyle State Park to the Mason-Dixon Line. SCRTA teamed up with Somerset County Commissioner Dave Mankamyer to complete 7.5 miles of trail from Rockwood to Pinkerton Low Bridge in 1993. At the time, the path was called the Allegheny Highlands Trail.
Using bike trails in other states as prototypes, SCRTA gradually built more trail in Somerset County. Financial support came from both private donors and America’s Industrial Heritage Project, a program proposed by Congressman John Murtha and passed by Congress in 1989. In 1994, seven more miles were constructed from Garrett to Rockwood, and the bridge at Hardensville was rehabilitated. However, repair of the Pinkerton Tunnel was delayed because of dangerous rock falls within the tunnel. To assure a continuous trail, a temporary route around the tunnel was built in 1998. Rehabilitation of the Salisbury Viaduct also began that year and concluded in time for an opening in 1999. More significant and more costly projects like the Big Savage Tunnel proved challenging to SCRTA and their partner organization, the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA). Big Savage Tunnel took nearly four years to complete, beginning in 1999 and finishing in 2003. SCRTA was also involved in the Keystone Viaduct rehabilitation from 2002-2003 and the Bollman Bridge placement in 2007.
Today, SCRTA often provides guidance and input on future projects to continue the trend of trailbuilding in Somerset County. SCRTA is a financial supporter for many recreational projects, providing matching funds for state or federal grants. As their own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, SCRTA sustains themselves through yearly dues and grant programs, which will help SCRTA operate more efficiently and responsively to recreational needs. While Somerset County maintenance crews take care of the GAP’s tree removal, ditch clearing, and seasonal mowing, SCRTA organizes volunteer days for trail cleanup and beautification.
SCRTA remains a vital trail group for the GAP Trail and the surrounding communities within Somerset County, keeping the trail vibrant and relevant.
For more information on the Somerset County Rails to Trails Association you can visit their website: https://www.somersetrta.org/
2020 SCRTA Officers
President, Cathy McCollom
Vice President, Dennis “Butch” Stahl
Treasurer, Larry Mazer
Secretary, June Deakins
Author: Reed Hertzler with contributions from SCRTA