On Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm, the Connellsville Caboose Welcome Center on the northern trailhead of the Yough River Trail, will officially open. The event will feature family-oriented activities like biking and hiking, an installation of a mural created by area artists, Laura Koposko and Jessica Lotman – which showcases the natural beauty of the area – and an opportunity to honor the many volunteers and contributors on the project from students at the Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center who painted the caboose to the area master carpenters like Dave Stupak and his son, David, who worked on it as well as the many other business owners and residents of Connellsville who helped.
What: Connellsville Caboose Welcome Center Grand Opening
Where: Northern Trail Head of the Great Allegheny Passage in Connellsville behind Martin’s Food Market (Map it)
When: Tuesday June 5, 2012 at 6:30pm
The Welcome Center, once an unused railroad caboose on the northern trailhead, will now provide a break for area visitors along the trail and will feature information on the area to include menus from restaurants, information on local hotels and resorts, other tourist-friendly attractions in the surrounding areas like the Connellsville Bike Loop, and a timeline narrative of the caboose and the railroad, thanks, in part, to members of the Hobo Model Railroad Club.
Says Emma Strong, Project Leader on the Student Conservation Association Trail Town Outreach Corps, “The Connellsville Caboose Welcome Center will ideally help to further bridge the gap between trail users of the Great Allegheny Passage and the Trail Town of Connellsville. Although the trail gets international attention and has approximately 750,000 trail visits (2011), towns still struggle to draw people into their business districts. By providing easy to access information about town amenities, including menus for local restaurants and rack cards from local lodging businesses, we hope to make tourists experience in Connellsville easy, informative, and pleasant. This historic restoration has turned an eye-sore into a welcoming icon for Connellsville, provides information about amenities in town, and also provides education on some of the rich history of Connellsville.”
Strong’s organization, the Student Conservation Association (SCA), is where many of Pennsylvania and other neighboring states college and high school students learn about conservation and obtain hands-on experience in assisting with local and other national programs. SCA’s mission is “to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.” They were instrumental in seeing this project through to fruition.
Yough River Trail Council President, Ted Kovall, has agreed to maintain the caboose as part of his ongoing efforts on the trail in Connellsville. Kovall has been involved in a number of the area’s related projects, all of which promote continued, respectful use of the trails for hikers, bikers, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts and families. The Yough River Trail Council is part of the Regional Trail Corporation, a non-profit partnership, whose mission is “to acquire, develop, and manage appropriate trail corridors in southwestern Pennsylvania and to create and promote opportunities for recreation, tourism, economic development, and historic and environment conservation.”
Kovall is optimistic about the project’s impact, stating, “We’ve taken a piece of our history and made it into a functioning, working part of our present and future. Hopefully, the visitors to our community will find their way into our city and help revive [this fantastic area] through tourism.”
The new Welcome Center will greatly enhance the experience for bikers, walkers, and other sightseers along the trail and will direct visitors to other area activities and amenities like kayaking and favorite local eateries. Tuesday’s opening event will kick off a season of other outdoors activities and features as well as provide learning opportunities for those looking to get involved in future endeavors.
The Connellsville Caboose Welcome Center was supported in part by a Seed Award from The Sprout Fund.
Written by Sherri Knight