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Piney Rail Riders Seeking 39-Mile Railroad Bed for ATV, Snowmobile Trail

Sunday, August 5, 2018 @ 12:08 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

imageCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – ATV and snowmobile enthusiasts last week welcomed the announcement that nearly $600,000.00 in DCNR grants were awarded to make improvements to trails at five sites throughout Pennsylvania.  

(Pictured above: Brian and Sonia Cangelo)

The Wolf administration said the new grants will help support the more than 200,000 registered all-terrain vehicle operators in Pennsylvania.

As welcome as the grants for trails primarily located in the eastern part of the state, the newly re-organized Piney Rail Riders would like to see a mixed-use trail closer to home. The recently-paved Rail 66 Country Trail does not allow any motorized vehicles and is only for walkers and bikers.

The Piney Rail Riders group is 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 39-mile railroad bed would be for a mixed-use trail.

Piney Rail Riders Secretary Sonia Cangelo of Leeper explains, “We are a group that formed with the intention of (finding) places where it is legal to ride ATVs/UTVs responsibly and respectfully in our area of Pennsylvania.”

Canelo says the group is still in its infancy and received its 501-c3 non-profit status at the end of last year.

The website, PineyRailRiders.org, went live just a few weeks ago, the group now has 603 followers for its Facebook page at Piney Rail riders and has nearly tripled in the last three weeks after it went public.  

A reorganization meeting on July 19 saw the following new officers elected: President Kenny Shaffer, Vice President Bruce Servey, Treasurer Cinnamon Marie Vosburg, in addition to Sonia Cangelo as Secretary.

More information on memberships and fundraisers is available on the group’s Facebook page.

“I think that’s great about the state grant ATV owners, side by sides, and some of the motor cross bikes, and snowmobiles all pay in to DCNR in order to have our buggies registered and plates on them and a portion of those funds are supposed to be going for trail systems for us to be able to use them,” said Cangelo.

“It works quite well in certain areas, but it’s not as assessable for use here.  I know (in) Marienville, the national forest is open up there and DCNR operates it, but it is a federal forest.  We have to pay extra fees for that, but they do have special passes. That’s not open all year long, but it is a well-maintained trail system.”

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The board is now exploring possible grants to purchase the Clarion River railroad bed.

“I’ve been working closely with DCNR and even with Headwaters Charitable Trust that actually purchased the rails from Shippenville all the way to Kane. Headwaters also originally purchased the rails to trails in Snow Shoe and it’s a mixed-use system.”

“I will have to point out that the rails to trails program is also for snowmobile use. Our particular group isn’t focused on that.  I know that there’s a lot of misnomers going on. People that don‘t understand that having a mixed-use or open to ATVs, UTVs, walkers, and bicycles is actually something that works.  I’ve been working closely with Snow Shoe rails to trails, and they’ve been in operation for not quite 20 years, and they’ve been doing it successfully. Connecting Whiskey Springs, Bloody Skillet (both state parks) with SnowShoe Rails to Trails for mixed-use trail systems are some of the current efforts.”

Sonia and husband Brian have ridden ATVs for most of their lives and often travel to get to trail that allows motorized vehicles.

“There ways around those types of things,” said Sonya. “I understand that through the small communities it is nice to have somewhere to walk and cycle and things like that.  I’d also like to point out that since rail beds were surrendered or when the rails were actually taken up, people have been using them as mixed-use, pretty much for the last 30 years. We’ve encountered walkers in small communities and it’s all about respecting each other and not tearing up the trail beds and you slow down for walkers and things like that.

“Below I-80 most of the townships are friendly toward ATV use on their roads. You’ll also notice that businesses encourage patronage and there are even stores and restaurants that have special parking. One establishment has a bridge that crosses a small creek to their establishment. They recognize that without encouraging people to come to their business, they’re struggling.”

She also stressed that business dies off in Northern Clarion County with winter and businesses are struggling.  ATVs often need to purchase gas on their trips and appear to have more social contact with local businesses.

“I am personally in support of the Route 66 and know it’s great to walk through communities, but we need to look at the big picture and how we can support the local businesses and small mom and pop places.”

“There are some private trails in Jefferson County that I am aware of.  My husband and I load our buggy on a trailer and go down to Southern Clarion County quite frequently and unload it at friend’s house and ride down there.  We used to be able to ride along the railbank at Redbank, but now we’re happy to find an end around and we’re not on the railbeds that have been designated as walking trails.”

The Piney Rail Riders group offers another reason for people to consider joining the organization.

“You are joining your voice with ours to prove to local, state and even federal governments that there is a need and a desire for such places to be saved, preserved, and even created.”

For more information, visit PineyRailRiders.org.


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