The Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resourcs – Bureau of Recreation and Conservation shared the news that hikers, bikers, and cross-country skiers have 5.9 miles of new trail to explore in Westmoreland County. The Westmoreland Heritage Trail recently finished the Turtle Creek Extension with help from a $500,000 DCNR grant. Funding came from the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund. The funding leveraged another $1.6 million in matching dollars, raising the project investment to more than $2.1 million.

The Westmoreland Heritage Trail now covers 8.6 miles from Saltsburg to Delmont and 9.3 miles from Export to Trafford. A long-term goal for the trail is to connect the two pieces together into a single 22-mile trail across Westmoreland County.

The trail has seen increased use during the COVID-19 pandemic. During April and May of 2019, the trail averaged around 800 users per day according to a trail counter in Murrysville. In 2020, trail use has more than doubled to over 1,800 users per day. “We’re continuing to see our parks and trails being more heavily used as people seek relief from the stress of everything surrounding this pandemic,” says Brandon Simpson, Assistant Director at the Westmoreland County Bureau of Parks and Recreation. “One positive thing we can take away from this awful situation is the value and importance of accessible parks, trails, and open spaces.”

As with any outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic, confirm that a facility is open before visiting. Also remember to follow guidance on recreating outdoors such as recreating locally, avoiding crowded areas, and wearing a mask if you are in an area with other people.