Four miles south of the Great Allegheny Passage’s Fort Hill trailhead, a stretch of hillside alongside the trail has been sinking down toward the Casselman River since February.

Somerset County Commissioners approved a $114,000 contract this week aimed at ensuring it doesn’t take the trail bed along with it.

Allegheny County-based contractor GeoBuild will get to work this winter to restore and stabilize an 8,200-foot stretch of hillside lost to a landslide below the well-known trail, county officials said Tuesday.

“Right now, there’s a pretty steep drop off there at the berm of the trail and it has slid 8 or 9 feet ... toward the trail,” President Commissioner Gerald Walker said. “We don’t want it to damage the trail bed.”

Walker said it’s not clear why the slide occurred in that area but two straight years of heavier than normal rainfall – at the very least – hasn’t helped the situation.

The county’s trail association is tasked with overseeing and maintaining the stretch of trail.

As planned, GeoBuild will restore the area impacted by the slide and add a series of tension-resisting steel “soil nails” and a mesh overlay to stabilize the hill, CME Engineer and Project Director Chuck Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said the berm area impacted will be returned to its original width when the project is complete.

As-is, bright yellow caution tape is up along the corridor to warn hikers, Trail Director Lindsay Pyle said.

“Fixing this area ... is so important because there’s really no easy detour around that area,” she said. “The area around it is steep and unsafe.”

While Walker noted winter weather could be a factor on the project’s timetable, a March 31 completion date is expected to allow the corridor to be open during the busy spring and summer seasons.

Studies have indicated the Maryland to Pittsburgh trail logs 800,000 trips – both short and extended hikes, walks and rides along the 150-mile corridor each year.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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