Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined hiking and trail enthusiasts from the Laurel Highlands region to outline major trail improvements enriching the outdoors experience in an area renowned for its wealth of natural resources.

Reflecting a state investment of almost $550,000, six projects improving regional trails were outlined by the secretary at the annual Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Trail Summit.

“In an area graced with abundant waterways, state parks, and forestlands, it’s difficult to improve upon this region’s natural bounty, but the Wolf Administration is doing just that — extending and improving trails where our DCNR experts see the need,” Dunn said. “We know the public supports a growing trail network to explore and appreciate this wealth of environmental beauty.”

The secretary noted trail-use by hikers, bikers, and others figured prominently in a recent Outdoor Industry Association study that found Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation industry is the 5th largest in the nation.

“That same study showed Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation economy generates $29 billion in consumer spending; $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue and $8.6 billion in wages and salaries,” Dunn said. “It also sustains 251,000 direct Pennsylvania jobs.”

Totaling $539,500, DCNR investments in the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape will focus on the region’s Ghost Town Trail. Project recipients include:

Indiana County: $222,000, for development of a Ghost Town Trail Extension and Hoodlebug Trail Extension. Work would include preparation of drawings and specifications to be used for advertising, bidding, and construction of two pedestrian bridges, ADA access, landscaping, sign, and other related site improvements. Also, development of approximately two miles of trail.

Indiana County: $24,500 for development of the Rexis Access Area, a 3-acre site at the mid-point on the Ghost Town trail in Buffington Township. Work would include construction of a comfort station/maintenance building, parking lot, utilities, landscaping, and sign.

Indiana County: $78,000, for the purchase a specialized four-wheel drive tractor with front loader

Cambria County Conservation & Recreation Authority: $100,000, for rehabilitation of the Rexis Branch section of the Ghost Town Trail. Work would include streambank and trail restoration; installation of riparian buffer, ADA access, landscaping, signage, and other related site improvements.

Cambria County: $50,000 for construction of the Red Mill Bridge on the Rexis Branch of the Ghost Town Trail. The bridge is in Blacklick Township, Cambria County.

Nanty Glo Borough, Cambria County: $65,000 for further development of Ghost Town Trail/McMullen Memorial Field Complex. Work would include construction of comfort station/concession stand, parking, pedestrian walkway; installation of fencing, site amenities, landscaping, ADA access, signage, and other related site improvements.

Conservation Landscapes are place-based strategies for natural resource stewardship and advocacy in key landscapes across the state where there are strong natural assets and local readiness.

They are marked by support for land conservation, locally-driven planning and community revitalization efforts.

The Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape works in Westmoreland, Fayette, Somerset, and Cambria counties, with most attention focused on four featured sub-landscapes: Laurel Ridge, Chestnut Ridge, the Great Allegheny Passage, and the Stonycreek-Quemahoning Initiative.

Click here to see the other Conservation Landscape areas around the state.