On August 18, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined the Department of Transportation (PennDOT), local officials, and hiking and biking enthusiasts in the dedication of the recently renovated Climax Tunnel on the Redbank Valley Trail, near New Bethlehem, Clarion County.

Improvements were facilitated by investments totaling almost $2 million by DCNR and PennDOT. The tunnel work helps close a vital gap in a trail network designed to eventually stretch from Pittsburgh to the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds.

“This project opens the first of DCNR’s so-called ‘Top 10 Trail Gaps,’ while helping us meet our goal of having a trail within 15 minutes of every citizen by closing openings in Pennsylvania’s current trail system,” Dunn said. “The Wolf Administration believes interagency coordination is vital to establishing a statewide network of trails and this achievement is a great example of what can be accomplished with a public-private collaboration.”

Spanning more than two years and costing more than $2.5 million, tunnel reconstruction work was financed by PennDOT investments totaling more than $1 million in federal Transportation Alternatives Program funds; $1 million in DCNR Pennsylvania Recreational Trails funds; and investments by Allegheny Valley Land Trust, Redbank Valley Trails Association and others.

“Investments in all transportation modes are essential to strengthening our communities,” PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards said of the project. “We were pleased to partner to ensure this trail is a safe and robust asset for years to come.”

Not far from the Borough of New Bethlehem, Clarion County, Climax Tunnel now allows passage along the Red Bank Valley Trail, a 51-mile, four-season trail, improved and maintained mainly by volunteers. Recognized by DCNR as its first Trail of the Year in 2014, the trail is known for scenic beauty; connection to other trails; and the hard work and involvement of dedicated volunteers.

“Amazing things can happen when businesses, people and organizations pull together for the betterment of ourselves and our communities,” said Allegheny Valley Land Trust Executive Director Chris Ziegler.

A total of 42 miles of the trail parallel Red Bank Creek, and it connects to the Armstrong Trail and a network that includes Pittsburgh’s Alliance Trail and Great Allegheny Passage. The Red Bank project is part of a trail initiative that foresees an eventual connection of Pittsburgh and Ridgway, in the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds.

“The tunnel will bring increasing tourism, a development that already is benefitting the local business community and towns along the trail,” said Redbank Valley Trails Association President Sandy Mateer.

The Redbank Valley Trail – Climax Tunnel is part of the PA Wilds Conservation Landscape, where there are strong natural resource assets; local readiness and support for land conservation; locally-driven planning; and community revitalization efforts.