Heading the Right Direction on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail

Heading the Right Direction on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail

As autumn arrives in splendor along the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), new colorful directional signage can be found to welcome visitors to the trail.  The Progress Fund’s Trail Town Program® has wrapped up a nearly $150,000 project to add 102 new and updated directional and informational signs to the GAP.

The new signs come after the completion of the GAP in summer 2013 and as the trail’s usage approaches 1,000,000 visits per year.  Surveys and feedback from riders have repeatedly described a demand for better signage to navigate their trips and find amenities.  Since last year, a noticeable increase in first-time riders and in bikers riding the completed trail all the way between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, MD, also exposed a greater need for consistently presented information along the trail.  Communities and businesses along the trail similarly seek to benefit from more prominent identification and in making sure riders are comfortable riding the trail and come to visit again.

In response, the Trail Town Program® sought to further the goal of a unified signage system along the GAP, building upon previous well-received sign projects.  The additions include custom-made ground signs, fence- or post-mounted signs, kiosks, and updates to existing kiosks that introduce new information or replace older outdated signs, displaying wayfinding and mileage, amenity information, and location identification.  The signs appear at 23 trail access areas along the GAP from Deal, by the Eastern Continental Divide to the south, to the Historic Pump House site near Homestead.  Trail users are already taking interest in the new signs. One trail user says about the signs, “It makes it easier for people not from the area to find their way among the various trail towns, and lets them know where they are and how far they have to go in case they run into problems.”  And says another, “Yay! No more guessing!”  Joyce MacGregor of the McKeesport Trail Commission says she found a pair of riders traveling from Pittsburgh taking pictures in front of a map display on the new off-road route through McKeesport.  “They were so glad to see a sign there and such a nice one.”

The signs are made possible with funding support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Allegheny Trail Alliance, and the Laurel Highlands Tourism Grant programs of Westmoreland, Fayette, and Somerset Counties.  The project also involved the generous support and assistance of the volunteers and managers of the trail across the corridor.  Bunting Graphics, Inc. of Verona, PA, was contracted to do the graphic design, fabrication, and installation, with Ruff Neon Signs & Lighting Maintenance from Cleveland assisting installation.

The Trail Town Program® is an economic development initiative of The Progress Fund and was created with the Allegheny Trail Alliance.  It works with partners across western Pennsylvania to help the region’s trails reach their full potential as community and economic assets.  Find more info about the program at www.trailtowns.org, or about the signage project contact Peter Grella at pgrella@progressfund.org.