Rebuilt West Newton station newest gem on riverside trail
By Richard Robbins
For The Valley Independent
Monday, November 26, 2007
Jack Cusick eyeballed the sloping, overhanging roof, the antique-looking lights attached to the red-brick exterior and the smartly appointed conference room and office, and said, “It’s a culmination.”
Cusick was talking about West Newton Station on the Youghiogheny River Trail, a new structure that resembles the old Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Railroad Station devastated by fire four decades ago.
The rebuilt West Newton Station will serve as a visitors center for trail users and as headquarters for Regional Trail Corp., the nonprofit partnership that sponsored the development of the Youghiogheny River Trail.
An open house at the station is slated from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday.
The $750,000 one-story building represents an effort that started in the late 1980s with the “concept” of converting the abandoned P&LE rail line into a biking-hiking trail. Cusick was on the original Regional Trail Corp. board of directors and now is a trail volunteer.
The idea grew into reality. One estimate places the number of annual visits to some portion of the 132-mile Great Allegheny Passage, which includes the Youghiogheny River Trail, at more than 700,000.
The West Newton Station will have special appeal because the design came directly from blueprints left behind by the P&LE, said Cathy McCollom, regional director of Trails Town Initiative, an alliance of towns along the passage from Cumberland, Md., to McKeesport.
With the West Newton facility, visitor centers are available about every 45 miles.
John Markle, a West Newton businessman and retired educator, lauded the Yough River Environment and Education Center, headquartered in a railroad car next to the station.
He said the center reflects the growth of the trail concept from small pieces. In its final form, sometime next year, the combined Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Towpath will stretch 335 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.
Richard Robbins can be reached at email@example.com or 724-836-5660.