PITTSBURGH — Trail projects in northwestern Pennsylvania will move forward with new funding announced Wednesday by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

In partnership with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), Crawford County sought and received a $1.5 million POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) grant to support trail construction on the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail and the Knox & Kane Rail Trail.

Trail advocates view the funding as a chance not only to advance previously planned projects, but also to catalyze new trail development throughout the region.

“We are grateful to the Crawford County Board of Commissioners for their vision in pursuing this extraordinary opportunity,” said Brett Hollern, program manager for PEC, which will manage the projects on the County’s behalf. “Likewise, we couldn’t have secured these resources without the help of local trail groups and our other partner organizations, and the vital support we received from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).”

Tourism and outdoor recreation have provided an economic lifeline to many communities in Pennsylvania in recent years. At a time when other sectors are struggling, the state’s $29 billion outdoor industry appears poised for growth amid renewed interest in multi-use trails. Recent research by PEC indicates trail use is up dramatically statewide, with 2020 traffic surging nearly 200 percent in some areas. This growth has occurred despite a global pandemic and ongoing recession, suggesting untapped potential in currently underserved areas.

Crawford County’s successful grant application was based on a 2019 PEC report identifying critical gaps and infrastructure needs in the Erie to Pittsburgh and PA Wilds Loop trail corridors, including sections of:

• the East Branch Trail between Titusville and Corry

• the Knox & Kane Rail Trail connecting Kane with Kinzua Bridge State Park

• the 105-year-old Brady railroad tunnel along the Armstrong Trail

• the Oil Creek State Park Trail