Animal Farm bridge project continues

Volunteers are working to rebuild a bridge on the Baker Trail. The first project was held April 12, and the next step of the rebuild will be held May 10.

The Baker Trail – conceived as a connector between Pittsburgh and various distant recreational areas – is a 132-mile hiking and backpacking trail that follows forest paths and dirt roads through woods, farmlands and along rivers and creeks. It is one of the 18 state-designated hiking trails and is included on the trails map of Pennsylvania.

Established in 1950, Baker Trail was named for the late Pittsburgh attorney Horace Forbes Baker, who was instrumental in the re-establishment of the Pittsburgh Council of the American Youth Hostels after World War II. The trail originally extended from Aspinwall to Cook Forest State Park (133 miles). However, extensive development along the Allegheny River caused the Aspinwall-Freeport section to be abandoned. In 1971, the trail was extended northward from Cook Forest Fire Tower to near the Allegheny National Forest. The trail begins near the Allegheny National Forest on the east side of Muzette-Vowinckle Road and ends just south of Freeport, one mile on Rt. 256. The Baker Trail, Harmony Trail and the Rachel Carson Trails belong to the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy.

Traversing the Baker Trail, traveling south, about 129 miles from the start, near Leechburg, Pa., and walking along a driveway of a private residence, there is a stone bridge abutment. It long ago held a bridge to travel over to Johnetta Road. Along the way one can observe many animals, such as emus, ducks, rabbits and more, hence this new project is named “Animal Farm Bridge.”

Baker Trail people have talked about a bridge for six years. With positive cooperation, a mutual agreement was reached and an easement was signed to rebuild the bridge.

The call went out to trail people near and far to help with the work. This close-knit community, including Baker Trail and North Country Trail volunteers, would travel from both the ANF and Clarion Chapters of the NCT. Coming together and working together is all part of the lure of these projects, according to a project spokesperson. Patty Brunner is the project coordinator, maintenance organizer, trail liaison and board member of the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy (RCTC). She also belongs to all four of the PA NCTA Chapters (RCTC is an affiliate of the NCTA) and belongs to the KTA (Keystone Trails Association) and Clarion County Trails Association. Brunner contacted Keith W. Klos, former ANF chapter president of the North Country Trail (NCT) to commission the bridge. In 2006, Klos had been commissioned to design, engineer and construct a 72-foot suspension bridge at Cherry Run in Crooked Creek State Park.

Stage one used three spans in the 36-foot stretch to support the hikers and/or the landowners’ riding lawnmowers. This stage took approximately six hours, including lunch break and cleaning up. The Animal Bridge Project Crew consisted of 12 hardworking and dedicated people. In attendance was Brunner; Joyce Appel (the NCTA PA State Representative, board member and member of all four chapters, member-at-large of the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) and a member of the Butler Outdoor Club; Paul Henry, the NCTA PA Trail Council Chairman and member of all four chapters of PA NCTA, KTA and BOC; Patti and Jim Huston, ANF Chapter members, traveling from Ohio; Ed Scurry, NCTA Clarion Chapter President; Dave Galbreath, NCTA Clarion Chapter Treasurer, Dewaine Beard, A-100/ANF Chapter member, Baker Trail Manger and RCTC Board member; Mark Eyerman, Rachel Carson Trail Manger and Board member RCTC; Dwight Fox, Baker Trail steward for this section of Baker Trail; and Keith and Karen Klos, NCTA members-at-large and former members of the ANF chapter.

Coordinagtors are hoping for good weather conditions for the second stage in the Animal Farm Bridge Building Project. To become involved in this project, contact Brunner at pabrunner2@yahoo.com.