Piney Rail Riders Get $64K Grant for Clarion to Jefferson ATV Trail Feasibility Study
HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) – Piney Rail Riders, a nonprofit organization supporting legal trails for off-road vehicles in Clarion and Jefferson Counties, was one of two recipients of new state grant funding announced yesterday.
On Tuesday, the Wolf Administration announced new grant funding that will support two recipients in Pennsylvania for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trails.
One of those two recipients is the Piney Rail Riders, a nonprofit organization based in Clarion and Jefferson Counties focused on preserving places to legally enjoy riding motorized off-road vehicles.
The Piney Rail Riders will be receiving a $64,000.00 grant to prepare a feasibility study for the Piney Branch ATV Rail Corridor, which approximately 24 miles from Piney Township to Brookville Borough in Clarion and Jefferson counties.
“We are thrilled DCNR was in support of our organization and our goal to preserve and eventually purchase one of the few remaining rail beds in western Pennsylvania,” said Terry Chapla, a representative of the Piney Rail Riders.
Piney Rail Riders is a 501-c(3) non-profit organization that has been attempting to purchase the rights to one of the only remaining tracts of rail bed in Clarion County that hasn’t been already purchased and designated a walking/biking only trail that excludes any motorized modes of transportation.
The ultimate goal for the railroad bed would be for a mixed-use trail which would be open to motorized off-road vehicles and non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles, as well as hikers, walkers, and horseback riders.
The organization has been working closely with various other organizations that are doing similar work in other areas of the state as well as state and federal agencies that have been guiding and helping them navigate the tedious and costly process of obtaining the rights to the rail bed.
The group was formed from a handful of individuals who are avid outdoorsmen and women who have used the trail for many years to ride ATVs, side by sides, dirt bikes and snowmobiles.
According to Chapla, with so many of the abandoned rail lines being acquired by rails to trails organizations and designated for use for only walkers and bicyclists, there was concern that the nearly 24-mile long trail running between Clarion and Brookville could be lost to yet another limited use non-motorized vehicle trail.
Piney Rail Riders was formed to work with the landowner that owns all of the over 23 miles of the railbed to try and prevent it from becoming another limited use trail.
“Fortunately the landowner is also an avid ATV rider and was not initially interested in seeing the rail line become a non-motorized trail, mostly because he also enjoys riding it as well,” Chapla said.
The grant announced on Tuesday will allow the Piney Rail Riders to move forward with their mission of preserving the trail as a mixed-use trail.
The money will be utilized to hire an engineering firm to do a feasibility study of the rail line which will look at items such as property lines, road crossings, stream crossings, and the bridges on the rail line, and create a report showing all of the issues issues, estimated costs of trail development, and a determination of the viability of the trail, as well as possible economic benefits of the trail to the local area.
“We have a short list of firms that we will be talking to in the near future now that the grant has been awarded,” Chapla said.
“I think it’s fantastic because ATVs do bring a lot of people into the area to stay at motels and ride all weekend, and we have lots of hiking and biking trail but few ATV trails,” Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan said.
“Anything we can do to promote our area is a good idea. It’s good that we have people that are stepping up and volunteering and helping out with this.”
Another group, the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area Authority in Northumberland County, is also receiving a grant of $25,000 for construction of approximately a quarter mile of the Boyers Knob Trail and rehabilitation of approximately half a mile of the Boyers Knob Trail at AOAA in Coal, East Cameron, Mt. Carmel, West Cameron, and Zerbe townships.
“Using funds from ATV riders when they register their vehicles, these grants will help improve riding opportunities,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.
“ATV trails draw visitors and can have a positive economic impact on nearby communities.”
DCNR’s ATV and Snowmobile grant program can help to buy land; develop plans and surveys; construct and maintain ATV trails; buy equipment; and conduct educational programs relating to ATV use.
The department can award grants two times each year to municipalities and organizations for the development of publicly accessible ATV trails and facilities.
With a few limited exceptions, all ATVs in Pennsylvania must have a registration issued by DCNR. Pennsylvania has around 285,000 registered ATVs. The grants are administered by DCNR with funding provided from ATV registrations.
For more information about ATV grants, visit the DCNR website at www.dcnr.pa.us and choose “Grants.”
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