The Westmoreland Yough Trail Chapter, like its fellow Regional Trail Corporation (RTC)-affiliated trail chapters, has deep roots to the development of the Yough River Trail North (YRTN), now known as the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). Thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers from around Westmoreland County the dream of having a continuous rail-trail became, after years of development and cooperation, a tangible reality. These volunteers wanted to transform the abandoned rail beds into a readily accessible trail for biking and walking. For more information on the formation history surrounding WYTC, consult “Moving Forward-Appreciating The Past” a historical narrative written by WYTC member Donna Morrison that more fully explains the foundation of the nonprofit that operates today.
Robert “Bob” McKinley was the first WYTC Manager (1994), as mentioned in the article. A historical timeline identifies the formation of the first phase of the WYTC in 1996 with the first officer as President Dave Hamilton. While WYTC is not a 501(c)(3) organization by itself, being a trail chapter under the RTC permitted WYTC to use federal and state grants obtained by the RT In 1998 the officers were: Ron Bobby-President, John “Jack” Cusick-Treasurer, Harry Morrison-Vice President. From 1998 to 2008, Ron Bobby, Harry Morrison, Carol Bobby, and Rowan Reid served as Presidents. Future boards included a secretary and directors. Many of the Original Over The Hill Gang (OOTHG) members served as board members from 1998 into the present as their knowledge and expertise was invaluable to the GAP as development continued. Leslie Pierce has been treasurer since 2002 and Mary Reid has been secretary since 2010.
The WYTC charter under the Regional Trail Corporation was developed on October 18, 1995. The WYTC covers the 10.5 miles of the GAP that snakes its way north through the towns of Van Meter, Smithton, Collinsburg and West Newton. The WYTC volunteers provided major efforts to build and improve the trail, such as clearing debris and picking up junk. The WYTC volunteers also re-decked various railroad bridges along the 43-mile expanse of the Yough River Trail North. Bridge restoration transpired for several years beginning in the early 1990’s. In turn, volunteer hours related to trail construction helped to match in-kind resources with project grants used to pay for materials, contractors, or anything else in reference to a particular construction grant. WYTC volunteers work diligently from their West Newton maintenance building to manage the grounds around the West Newton Station and along the trail itself. WYTC also manages fundraiser events like the annual Labor Day Poker Run, and the 5K 10K 2-Mile Fun Walk in April. Another event to generate membership, on National Trails Day, is the Trail Appreciation Day, held on the first Saturday in June. WYTC also supplements their budget through grants, donations, and membership dues.
Funds raised assist with maintenance of the Trail. Bob Hand, WYTC volunteer, former President (2012), spokesperson for the OTHG, and currently one the 2020 Directors elaborates on the work done by the maintenance crews:
“The WYTC has established a maintenance program that is designed to provide timely maintenance to and improvement of the trail within Westmoreland County. Known as the Over the Hill Gang, (OTHG) our maintenance crew is guided by a Maintenance Policy adapted by the WYTC in 2016. That policy sets out priorities for work, establishes the need for worker training and safety, etc. The first priority is maintenance of the trail surface so that the trail is free of obstructions and has a rideable, walkable surface. That means that events like fallen trees and water-caused erosion will be repaired on an emergency basis. A telephone call-out list is used to gather workers for those emergency repairs. All other no-emergency work such as grass cutting, tree trimming, patching minor damage to the trail surface, the installation of amenities, collecting trash, etc. are routinely done during weekly work parties held between March and November.
The OTHG takes pride in the condition and appearance of the trail. Over the past ten years, numerous amenities have been installed including covered picnic tables near each P&LE railroad milepost, memorial benches, and a patio-style seating area at the King Trail Head in West Newton. The condition of the Westmoreland County section of the Great Allegheny Passage is often praised by trail users. That praise is the result of the hard work of the WYTC. Funding for maintenance equipment and supplies is obtained through several fundraising events, membership dues, donations and grants.”
For more information on the Westmoreland Yough Trail Chapter visit their website at https://bikewytc.org/.
2020 WYTC Officers:
Keith Frid, President
Rowan Reid, Vice President
Mary Reid, Secretary
Leslie Pierce, Treasurer
Author: Reed Hertzler with contributions from WYTC