Towns and Trails Regional Planning

This blog is courtesy of Toni Henry, participant in the East Brady Trail Town initiative, a committee under the East Brady Area Development Corporation.  Toni has been an avid supporter of trails and active participant in the building of the Armstrong Trail, a trail which will eventually connect to the Great Allegheny Passage in Pittsburgh.  The following offers a perspective on her work in the area.

The vision

Eight years ago when I moved from Pittsburgh to East Brady I had a personal vision of being able to ride my bike out of my garage, onto the Armstrong Trail and south to Kittanning. At the time, that wasn’t possible unless you had a mountain bike, were prepared to share the trail with speeding dirt bikes and were willing to risk be confronted by angry, adjacent property owners.


The reality

I am happy to say that in 2017 I can indeed ride my bike out of my garage and onto Kittanning ….. and to my delight to New Bethlehem and Brookville also! Much has been accomplished in those eight years!


Our local Armstrong Trail is also a part of a much larger effort to complete a long distance trail from Erie to Pittsburgh and to connect a multi-state network of trails. Connecting trails connects communities. Connected communities benefit by longer trail systems and users who are looking for amenities such as overnight accommodations, bike repair shops, meals etc. Those services provided in towns bring dollars into those towns.

The ability to improve and connect trails comes at a price. That price being the time and efforts of committed volunteers cutting brush, picking up litter, spreading stone, applying for grants, holding fundraisers, promoting the trail through newspaper and electronic PR and meeting with local officials and towns people. The Armstrong Rails to Trails Association supports the Allegheny Valley Land Trust in these efforts. Complicated issues of obtaining right of ways, negotiating with property owners, executing agreements and prosecuting those who abuse the trail are often handled by the trail corridor owner, The Allegheny Valley Land Trust.


Rarely are the townships and/or municipalities that the trails connect asked for monetary support for the trail that serves and enhances their community.


The challenge

Those who do not use the trail personally often don’t understand the benefits of having a trail in their backyard. Beyond the health benefits to local residents and visitors – providing a safe and free place to walk, hike, bike, bird watch etc. the trail brings others into our communities. Those others spend money in our towns and help to boost the local economy. Local governments are often spread thin. Embracing and promoting the trail are not high on their priority lists. Often they see perceived liabilities over proven benefits.


What are we doing to conquer this challenge

It is our goal to convince naysayers that trails are a very positive part of their communities and that they will bring much needed tourism dollars with them. We can best do this through education; offering informational sessions to the community as a whole and to the governing officials, training local businesses owners and getting people out on the trails to see for themselves what a wonderful amenity is in their backyard!

National Historical Landmark Designation Ceremony for the W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop at 29th Annual Hammer-In Festival this Saturday, April 15

The Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation welcome the public to the 29th annual Hammer-In Festival at the W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop on Saturday, April 15, 2017.

In recognition of the building’s recent designation as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior, a ceremony and plaque unveiling will occur at noon, presided by August R. Carlino, President and Chief Executive Officer of Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation. Invited are State Senator Camera Bartolotta, State Representative Pam Snyder, and the Greene County Commissioners.

National Historic Landmark designations are the highest form of federal recognition that can be awarded to properties and sites in the United States. To be designated as an NHL, it must be proved that the site not only possesses integrity, but that its history is nationally significant.

When the designation was awarded in January, then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said the W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop and Foundry “…is an outstanding example of a small, family-owned, twentieth- century foundry and machine shop. ‘Job shops’ like W. A. Young & Sons, which did custom jobs for a variety of clients, were an important component of the American industrial economy facilitated by the development of machine tools and line-shaft power systems in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. The property includes perhaps the finest collection of machine tools found in a small job shop.”

A celebration of traditional blacksmithing practices, the Hammer-In Festival is an annual event, held on the third Saturday in April, jointly sponsored by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp., the Appalachia Blacksmiths Association, (ABA) the Pittsburgh Area Artist-Blacksmiths Association (PAABA), along with partners in Greene County.

The day’s highlights also include an art auction at 1 p.m., followed by a live Bronze Pour – courtesy of Rivers of Steel Arts. The auction jointly benefits Rivers of Steel, the ABA and the PAABA. Blacksmithing demonstrations and guided tours will occur throughout the day. Admission is free. Refreshments will be available for purchase. Festivities begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at approximately 3:30 p.m.

The Machine Shop is located about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 116 Water Street, Rices Landing, PA, 15357. It is a contributing structure to the Rices Landing National Register Historic District in Greene County.

Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation is a non-profit that manages the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, an eight-county region and one of 49 such organizations as designated by Congress. Its mission, in partnership with the National Park Service, is to conserve the industrial, cultural, natural, and recreational resources of southwestern Pennsylvania.

For more information on the Rivers of Steel and the W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop and Foundry, please visit Rivers of Steel’s website or contact Carly McCoy at

HAMMER-IN in Rices Landing is on Saturday April 15th

HAMMER-IN in Rices Landing is on Saturday April 15th from 9 am to 4 pm.  The event will be held at the W A Young Foundry and Machine Shop and admission is free.

There will be blacksmith demonstrations as well as food available.  For more information you can contact George “Bly” Blystone at 724-710-4898.