Grant transfered to trail project

Warren County had some money in hand for the development of the Hunting and Fishing Museum of Pennsylvania.

What it didn’t have was enthusiastic public support for the project.

So officials found a popular project to pair with the money.

Warren County Council on Tourism (COT) Director John Papalia, who was once chairman of the board of the museum project, asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) if the $190,000 grant awarded for the museum could be redirected to Pennsylvania Kinzua Pathways’ (PKP) proposed system of mountain biking trails in the Jakes Rocks area of the Allegheny National Forest.

The grant is through the Pennsylvania Hunting and Fishing Heritage Center, according to Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Jim Decker.

HUD approved that change.

The museum project is approaching 20 years and organizers were looking for a new path to generate interest and excitement.

“The museum project was a tough one to carry on,” Papalia said. “The PKP project seemed like a very good tie-in. It was a perfect fit to fulfill the mission of the museum.”

Interactive and interpretational trails were part of the museum proposal, a natural fit with the PKP project.

The PKP Trails at Jakes Rocks development will bring a single-track, stacked loop mountain bike trail system to the Allegheny National Forest.

The recreational opportunities will be mixed with educational ones.

The money will be used for “finishing the trail and providing information along the route – developing a variety of spots along the trail where people can stop,” Papalia said.

Those spots could feature signage and exhibits at heritage or historical locations, and overlooks.

PKP is working with historical and heritage organizations – Warren County Historical Society, Warren Public Library, Pennsylvania Wilds, the Seneca Nation, and others – on those aspects of the project.

Students from the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford, Clarion University, and Indiana University completed biological and archeological field work studies of the impact area.

The studies were conducted on 46.3 miles, PKP’s Joe Colosimo said. The grant will be targeted to Phase I of the trail project.

Colosimo said he hopes for a 2015 completion date for Phase I. That will depend on Allegheny National Forest approval in 2014.

PKP plans to host an interactive website, and a project under development by UPB students will merge global positioning information with heritage information in an app, according to Colosimo. “Once you get to that GPS location, it kicks out that historical information.”

Papalia, Decker, and Colosimo hope the trail system will bring people to the area who will then be looking for other attractions.

“The trail is one of those things that can make Warren a destination,” Colosimo said. “Northwest Pennsylvania is starting to find reasons for people to come here and stay here. Trails is a part of that.”

“I think this is going to get us to the point where we get some positive momentum going,” Papalia said.

The museum was proposed in 1994. At that time, the target location for the facility was an island in the Allegheny River at Tionesta. In 2008, when the funding dried up and organizers were looking for an exit strategy, Warren County stepped in as a possible host.