Great American Rail Trail map

The preferred route of the Great American Rail-Trail begins in Washington, D.C., runs through 12 states and covers 3,700 miles.

Someday, runners, hikers and bikers will have one route to follow from Washington, D.C., to Washington County to Washington state.

The preferred route for the Great American Rail-Trail was unveiled Wednesday afternoon in communities nationwide. Known informally as the “Great American,” the route begins (or ends) in D.C. and runs through 12 states, extending 3,700 to northwestern Washington state. it connects more than 125 existing trails and 90 trail gaps.

Completing this trail, however, will take time. A lot of work is ahead – several decades’ worth, perhaps. An estimated 52 percent of the trail has been completed and accessible to the public.

This will be the first cross-country multi-use trail in the U.S. The route was detailed in a report from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Assessment of the route took 12 months and included input from RTC’s GIS analysis; area organizations such as the Montour Trail Council and Washington County’s Planning Commission and Department of Parks and Recreation; and trail planners and managers and state agencies elsewhere.

A local celebration took place Wednesday at the McDonald Trail Station and History Center, recognizing the inclusion of the Montour and Panhandle trails nearby. Festivities included a community run, walk and ride.

Larry Maggi, chair of the Washington County commissioners, touted the impacts the trail could have locally. He said in a statement: “(The county) is seeing a direct return in its vibrant tourism industry, and our trail systems provide a unique opportunity to capitalize on trail tourism and its impact on small business growth.

“Community leaders in McDonald are driving a renewed energy, where both Panhandle and Montour Trail users are welcomed to town and encouraged to venture off-trail to enjoy the shops, services and its heritage.”

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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