The Herald Standard: Commissioners request grants to fund extension of Sheepskin Trail

The Point Marion section of the Sheepskin Trail stretches 1.4 miles and connects to Springhill Township’s Nilan community to make up the southern extension of the trail. The Fayette County commissioners are requesting $1.25 million in funding to complete that portion of the trail.

The Fayette County commissioners are seeking $1.25 million in grants for the southern extension of the Sheepskin Trail in Point Marion.

“Construction of this section will unquestionably promote a continued momentum we have been able to develop over the past two-and-a-half years,” said Art Cappella, the chief community development specialist for Fayette County Planning, Zoning, Community & Economic Development.

The southern extension is along Nilan Road, which runs 1.4 miles parallel with the Cheat River in Springhill Township and ends at the Lake Lynn Power Station in West Virginia at the border.

To support the development, the commissioners on Thursday voted to approve an application for $1 million through the Smart Transportation Livable Communities Grant program. They also approved a second grant application for $250,000 to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to provide a match to the Smart Transportation Livable Communities Grant.

“We’re taking advantage of these transportation-type grants that are broader than just highways and bridges,” said Commissioner Vince Vicites.

Vicites thanked the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, on which he serves as vice chairman, as well as PennDOT for partnering with Fayette County to apply for the federal grant,

“Hopefully, it will help speed up the process to get the trail built,” Vicites said, adding that funding resources like the Smart Transportation Livable Communities Grant are ones they haven’t necessarily tapped into in the past. “We’ll continue to seek funds like this on a broader scale.”

Vicites said as they continue along with progress of the trail section through Uniontown at a cost of $1.3 million and the requested $1.25 million for the southern extension, they will seek additional grants to eventually have the Sheepskin Trail completed and connected to the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) in Dunbar.

Cappella said once the Sheepskin Trail is completed, it will run 34 miles from Dunbar Township’s Wheeler Bottom and Dunbar Borough to Point Marion Borough through many communities.

“It is a missing link to a nationally significant trail system called the American Discovery Trail that traverses all the way to California,” Cappella said.

Along with the trail linking to the GAP, Cappella said it will also link with the West Virginia Rail-Trail System, which is a 48-mile trail connecting to Morgantown, and will also link with the Youghiogheny, Monongahela and Cheat River watersheds as a recreational greenway.

He added that the trail is a major trail gap in the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition’s “Parkersburg to Pittsburgh” leg of the targeted 1400-plus miles of connected trail the coalition is working to build.

“Once we get it built, it will really benefit the county to connect two-trail systems,” Vicites said.

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