Vintondale, PA -- Today, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined supporters of the Ghost Town Trail and other local officials in celebrating Ghost Town Trail's designation as Pennsylvania's 2020 Trail of the Year.
Recently marking its 25th anniversary, Ghost Town Trail is cooperatively managed by the Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority (CCCRA) and Indiana County Parks & Trails.
The trail is named for long-gone coal-mining communities once dotting the railroad corridor.
"During these trying times we have seen a tremendous spike in newcomers trying outdoors pursuits, especially walking and hiking," Dunn told trail supporters gathered at a Cambria County trailhead. "I commend you folks and what you have done to encourage safety and social distancing among those now enjoying the Ghost Town Trail."
"It is the Trail of the Year designation that draws deserved attention not only to trails like this, but also the legions of folks like you who support them, and what better time to note this honor than at the start of Trails Month when Pennsylvanians are asked to recognize and appreciate this state's wealth of trails?" Dunn said.
Noting its rich history of railroading and former coal mining towns along its 46-mile route, Dunn said, "The Ghost Town Trail, like so many rail trails throughout Pennsylvania, captures the spirit of an industrial past and the promise of a recreational future.
"Again, we see a rails-to-trail conversion spawning economic benefits with establishment of new businesses and increasing patronage at others. Restaurants, bike shops, clothing retailers and outfitters, hotels and motels. The list goes on and on," Dunn said.
Pennsylvania is a national leader in trail development, providing its citizens and visitors with more than 12,000 miles of trails across the commonwealth, from gentle pathways threading through miles of preserved greenways, to remote, rugged trails scaling the state's highest mountains.
Formed in 1994 as a 12-mile segment, Ghost Town Trail was the first trail in the state constructed with transportation enhancement funding.
In 2005, the 32-mile main stem of the trail was completed from Blairsville, Indiana County, to Ebensburg, Cambria County.
"For years, people have come from all over to use the Ghost Town Trail. We are excited it is getting the recognition it deserves," said Cambria County Conservation & Recreation Authority Executive Director, Cliff Kitner. "It is a testament to all the hard-working people that make this trail possible."
The Ghost Town Trail needs only 5.5 miles to complete the first continuous loop of rail trail in the Eastern United States.
It is estimated approximately 80,000 users enjoy the trail each year.
Ghost Town Trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail in June 2003 and was ranked seventh on the "Best Hiking Trails in the United States" list by American Towns Media in 2016.
"DCNR's Trail of the Year designation is a much-appreciated acknowledgment of the many years of dedicated effort and hard work by volunteers, community leaders, elected officials, and agency personnel from both Cambria and Indiana County," said Indiana County Parks & Trails Director Ed Patterson. "The designation has helped bring many new visitors to the trail and the region."
CCCRA and Indiana County Parks & Trails have partnered with local businesses to assist both the Ghost Town Trail and its users.
The trail draws thousands of bicyclists, hikers, runners, walkers, birders and, in winter, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-tire biking enthusiasts.
Each year, DCNR's Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee designates a Trail of the Year to help build enthusiasm and support for both large and small trails, and raise public awareness about the value of Pennsylvania's trail network.
In 2019, DCNR named Mid State Trail, Pennsylvania's longest trail, as Pennsylvania's Trail of the Year.
The Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee is charged with implementing the recommendations of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan to develop a statewide land and water trail network to facilitate recreation, transportation, and healthy lifestyles.
The 20-member DCNR-appointed committee represents both motorized and non-motorized trail users and advises the commonwealth on use of state and federal trail funding.
Both Indiana County Parks & Trails and the CCCRA maintain websites listing detailed Ghost Town Trail information, and DCNR addresses more than 600 other trails covering almost 12,000 miles in Pennsylvania.
MEDIA CONTACT: Terry Brady, 717-705-2225