Welcoming Remarks

Lindsay Pyle, Parks and Trails Director, Somerset County gives welcoming remarks during the Sept. 11th National Memorial Trail groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020.

A 1,300-mile trail that passes through the Flight 93 National Memorial corridor and the city of Johnstown is now just a signature away from becoming a “National Trail.”

Awaiting President Joe Biden’s final approval, the bill approved by the U.S. Senate this week would put the September 11 National Memorial Trail under the Department of the Interior’s watch to formally recognize the pathway, which is already in the works to connect Flight 93 National Memorial, the Pentagon and the former World Trade Center site.

The trail has been in the works for years, led by the September 11 National Memorial Trail Alliance, as a tribute to the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. So have small-scale trail-building efforts to better develop the corridor.

A move to give the trail “national status” should be a major boost for those efforts, said Lindsay Pyle, Somerset County trail coordinator.

That will give the trail cross-country recognition – putting it on the level of a national park and creating awareness about it on the National Park Service’s website. At the same time, it could make fundraising for the project an easier task, Pyle said.

Trails such as the Trail of Tears and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail are among dozens across the nation that have been designated as national trails by Congress since the 1960s.

“It’s going to give us a leg up when it comes to funding and recognition,” Pyle said. “We’ve been pushing for this for quite a while, and we’re very excited to see it happen.”

As described in the Senate bill approved this week, the trail will celebrate the nation’s resiliency on 9/11 while also highlighting the nation’s cultural and industrial heritage.

As outlined, the September 11 National Trail follows the Chesapeake and Ohio trail to the Great Allegheny Passage through Cumberland, Maryland, and southern Somerset County before continuing north through the county, past the Flight 93 memorial and through Greater Johnstown before continuing on to New York City.

U.S. Reps. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., Brian Fitzpatrick R-Pa., and Don Beyer, D-Va., drafted the original bill that passed unanimously in the House earlier this year.

David G. Brickley, founder of the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance, which spearheaded efforts for the national trail, praised the Senate’s vote this week for putting the long sought-after federal designation “near the finish line.”

“We’re very grateful for the immense support and bipartisan leadership from Congressmen Connolly, Fitzpatrick, and Beyer,” said Brickley. “Twenty years ago, I envisioned a federally designated 9/11 Trail that would commemorate that tragic day for future generations. Now that opportunity is here, and we are truly appreciative and excited to see this legislative process unfold within the 20-year anniversary of 9/11. ”

In Cambria County, the trail will follow the Path of the Flood Trail and the Jim Mayer Riverswalk Trail through the city.

Pyle has been working with trail partners in Somerset County to build at least 10 more miles of the dedicated trail path between Garrett and Berlin, while additional miles will follow low-traffic back roads toward Flight 93 National Memorial.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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