The History Project

A 40-Year Journey

The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) can trace its beginning to June 9, 1978, when the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy purchased the first property that would become the GAP from the Western Maryland Railway Company.

The Conservancy purchased 27 miles of the railroad from Connellsville to Confluence. Nine miles of trail from Ohiopyle to near Confluence were opened in 1986. This was the best possible advertisement for the rails-to-trails movement; people flocked to it by the thousands, then hundreds of thousands.

Rail trail groups formed all along the corridor and it became apparent that a continuous trail might be possible from Pittsburgh to Cumberland to Washington, DC.  In 1995 the consensus of those trail organizations decided to unite and the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA) was formed.

In 2001, the trail system was christened the Great Allegheny Passage with its own logo; and later in that year 100 continuous miles were opened from Meyersdale to McKeesport. In 2006 the connection to Maryland and the C&O Canal Towpath was celebrated, and the very challenging final 9-mile section into Pittsburgh was completed in June of 2013.


Hundreds of people have been, and still are, involved in the building and maintenance of the Great Allegheny Passage, many of them are volunteers.

At the same time, one person made it happen – Linda McKenna Boxx. Linda led the organization for 21 years with insight, determination, exuberance, and conviction. She worked to determine the feasibility of the connection to the C&O, the cost involved, and the best practices for trail building and enhancements.

With the support of the trustees of the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, for whom she worked, Linda was ATA’s volunteer CEO, COO, CFO, and so much more—working with engineers and contractors, in Harrisburg working with state officials, on the ground helping install mileposts, in the philanthropic world raising money, on her orange bicycle meeting trail users, and always working with the communities in which the trail is located.

“…frankly this project would not have happened if it wasn’t for Linda. She would not take “no” and she worked around every single obstacle.  If there was a saint for this project, it’s Linda Boxx, pure and simple.”

John C. Oliver III, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources,
May 2005 – Interview with Paul g Wiegman


This website is dedicated to Linda McKenna Boxx for her impassioned leadership during the

building of the Great Allegheny Passage.

Author: Sandra Finley and Michele Gornick