Walkway would link Montour Trail to Southpointe

April 21, 2013
Frank Ludwin, Cecil Township supervisor and Montour Trail volunteer, is behind the new project to continue the trail to Southpointe. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Southpointe has just about everything but outdoor recreation and a zoo.

In a couple of years, only the zoo may be lacking.

A project undertaken by the Cecil Friends of the Montour Trail, Cecil Township and the Washington County Authority would link Southpointe, a mixed-use business and residential park, to the trail and an adjacent recreation complex being built.

A paved, 10-foot-wide pathway would run 1,800 feet from Montour Trail to Klinger Road, slightly north of Southpointe’s Fountainhead building. It will be built by volunteers.

The path also would be accessible to future residents of The Reserve at Southpointe, a 350-unit apartment complex for which earth is being moved, between the trail and Klinger Road. The Reserve, however, will not be completed for perhaps 1 1/2 to three years.

Foley Excavating Inc. of Mars, Butler County, is digging at the apartment site. A worker there said installation of footers probably will begin in a few weeks.

Easy access to a rec park and Montour Trail would provide safer fitness options to Southpointe residents and employees, some of whom run or walk busy roadways.

These should be cost-effective plans for Cecil taxpayers.

“The rule is: We won’t spend any township money on the park or trail,” said Frank Ludwin, a Cecil supervisor who is passionate about the trail – he was a Montour Trail Council member for 13 years, before resigning. He still supervises a volunteer crew that works on the township’s sections of the trail, using two trucks from the 1970s and a tractor he owns.

Montour Trail is a nonmotorized, mixed-use rail trail that attracts hundreds of walkers, runners and bicyclists daily – and probably more than 1,000 on Saturdays and Sundays. There are a few breaks in the trail that, when completed, will run 46 miles from the beginning, in Moon Township near Coraopolis, to Clairton.

Ludwin estimated the cost of constructing the tar-and-chip path at $85,000. He made a presentation at the authority’s monthly meeting April 11 to appeal for funding – and got nearly one-fourth of the entire cost.

“Frank left, and the board talked and said it would be great to connect all these things,” said Bill Sember, the authority’s director of operations. “The board voted to donate $20,000 for design and building materials.”

No other funding for the walkway has been secured, but it is being sought.

The Klinger Road park, likewise, is being constructed by volunteers through nontownship funding. Donations are welcome, of course. Ludwin said fellow supervisor Andy Schrader has applied for state grants through the office of state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, for the park and walkway. The Canonsburg Youth Soccer Association is raising funds for three soccer fields to be constructed in the park.

When completed, he said, that park also will feature playground equipment, facilities for basketball and street hockey, and dog parks. Camping will be available nearby and an existing pond will be upgraded.

“If they get tournaments on the (soccer) fields, that could help the hotels,” Ludwin said.

The park and apartments will be on 35 acres the township purchased in recent years. The Reserve at Southpointe LLC, which is building the apartments, agreed to install utilities, donate topsoil and build a parking lot and walkway around the fields in the park. The builder did this in reciprocation for the township agreeing to move its right of way near the apartment complex site.

This would give Cecil four parks along Montour Trail.

Because of trees, the Klinger-to-trail walkway cannot be a straight line. “It will be a zigzag,” Ludwin said.

He said that after the paved path is completed to Klinger Road, it may be “extended” to the Hilton Garden Inn on the bluff above.

Ludwin, 80 and robust, said he spends 800 to 900 hours a year working on the trail. Last week, he was preparing for the Burgh 10K, 5K and 2-mile family walk that began and ended in Cecil Park yesterday.

He is enthusiastic about the plans for the Klinger Road area but realizes they will take time.

“I would like to have the walkway done next year,” Ludwin said. “I would like to see the Klinger project done next year, but it will probably be two or three years.”

That park, by the way, does not have a name – which could lead to a fundraising initiative.

“Anyone who wants their name on it,” Ludwin said, partly joking, “can get it if they make a donation.”

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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