Ron Shawley

Ron Shawley

JOHNSTOWN – A recently completed loop trail is offering visitors an educational experience.

The Cambria County Greenway Loop Trail is a 15-mile pathway that incorporates the Johnstown Greenway, Honan Avenue Community Hiking & Biking Trail and Staple Bend Tunnel Trail. It is accessible at the Honan Avenue trailhead.

The Laurel Highlands Historical Village also offers a history lesson along the trail.

Ronald Shawley, executive director of the Laurel Highlands Historical Village, said that hikers and bikers with smart devices will be able to access the organization’s website, lhhv.org, to guide them through the trail.

“They can follow along with it on the trail, the starting point, the beaver dam, the waterfall and what-not. But at the beginning, it gives the folks a real good history lesson of the Rosedale Coke Plant,” he said.

“It gives them the history of Rosedale and how the Black and the Irish communities were forced out of Johnstown back in the ’30s. And it talks about those villages up there. When the people were evicted from Johnstown, that’s where they went – they went up to Rosedale, and they built these shacks and that’s where they lived.

“It talks about the history of the dam and that’s what we wanted it to be. We wanted it to be not just a trail, but we wanted the trail to be informative, educational, and we wanted to preserve our heritage and our history with these trails.”

Shawley said there will be signage along the trail that will explain the local wildlife. He said that this would be similar to signage that was once on the Honan Avenue trail that had pictures of wildlife and facts so that children could see the pictures and read about the animals.

“You can spend a whole day biking and hiking the trail, easily,” he said.

He added that he’s been contacted by hikers and bikers from out of town who have utilized the trail and who say they like the accessibility to downtown Johnstown.

“They say, ‘You know what? This is really great because we’re able to start here, have breaks, make the loop, come back to Johnstown in the late afternoon,’ and then they’re able to go out and eat in Johnstown,” Shawley said. “They’re able to take in the sights in Johnstown before they go home.”

Trailgoers also like the educational aspect, Shawley said.

“They also love the fact that it’s educational for their children. They’re able to learn,” he said. “As they’re riding, they’re able to connect all at one time with both history and wildlife.”

Shawley said the organization will team up with educational institutions to hold programs for schoolchildren in an area of donated land that the group plans to develop for educational purposes.

He added that the group will be holding its annual Cambria County Arts and Heritage Festival on Sept. 11 at Duman Lake County Park and is seeking vendors, organizations and nonprofit groups. Those interested or seeking more interested should call Patti Deffibaugh at 814-288-7017.

Katie Smolen is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @KSmolen1230.

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