With the Great Allegheny Passage completed, a slew of old railroad towns have gained more attention and attracted more tourists. That’s why since 2007, the Greensburg-based Progress Fund has been working to help revitalize towns along the trail in Maryland and Pennsylvania through its Trail Town Program.
This week, the program will debut in Allegheny County when Trail Towns holds a kickoff event tomorrow evening at the Bulgarian-Macedonian National Education & Cultural Center in West Homestead from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
“The trail is a regional resource and an international destination,” says program director Will Prince. “Our ultimate goal is to connect the towns to the trail and to each other, and help provide services to trail users while at the same time building the local economies.”
On top of performing needs-assessment studies in conjunction with community leaders, business owners and town residents, Trail Town helps build infrastructure and spur economic growth through offering a variety of services.
“What’s really cool is that we do some community connection projects, such as install bike racks, landscaping and public art that makes everything better aesthetically or more trail-friendly,” Prince says. “We also provide loans to small businesses — bike shops, restaurants and cafes, overnight accommodations. We’ve done over $50 million in lending across about two dozen loans.”
The Allegheny County communities Trail Town will focus on Boston, McKeesport, Homestead and areas of the South Side, among others.
“These are old railroad towns that have a great new resource,” Prince says.