Brief History of Allegheny River Trail in Clarion County (ARTinCC)

Efforts have been made for almost 20 years to build the bike trail along the Allegheny River within Clarion County, but most of these efforts were spearheaded by trail groups outside of Clarion County, who already had plenty of challenges to resolve within their own counties.  In January 2018, ARTinCC was formed as a nonprofit corporation to focus on the gaps in Clarion County, beginning with Emlenton to Foxburg. The formal IRS 501c3 letter was issued on Dec. 21, 2018.  The PA BCO-10 Registration letter was issued on May 26, 2020.  ARTinCC thus is fully authorized to solicit charitable contributions, and donors can reliably itemize and deduct such donations within limits as permited by law.

            ARTinCC focused its initial efforts in 2018, in conjunction with environmental and civil engineering experts, in analyzing what needed to be done to build the bike trail, including negotiating right of way agreements with landowners over whose land the trail would pass.  On the north end of the 3.25 miles sits the Richie Run Bridge, which is a 100+ year old concrete arch bridge over a major stream (Richie Run), with no side rails or guards, and an almost 40-foot drop on each side to the stream and rocks below.  Engineers verified the structural integrity of the bridge, and proposed how to repair the bridge to permit construction and other vehicles, bikers and pedestrians, to safely cross the bridge.  The bridge technically resides in Venango County, thus the Franklin-based Allegheny Valley Trails Assn. (AVTA), in conjunction with ARTinCC, filed a grant application outlining the cost of $136,000 needed to fully repair the bridge.  In September of 2019, the PA DCED Commonwealth Finance Authority awarded this amount.  Construction in 2020 was deferred due to the impact of the coronavirus, but it is likely that major construction will occur in 2021.

            On the south end of the 3.25 miles, in 2018 and 2019, ARTinCC focused on the first two landowners just north of the Foxburg Bridge.  Together, their parcels covered the first 1.0 mile of the 3.25 miles of the trail gap.  Efforts at negotiations initially were unsuccessful, but ARTinCC had fully researched the title histories of these parcels, and believed that ARTinCC owned significant interests in these parcels.  Formal Actions to Quiet Title were filed in the second half of 2019 in the Clarion County Court of Common Pleas, asking the Court to resolve who owned what.  

Once the formal litigation began, the landowners decided that negotiations might be prudent.  After considerable effort, both landowners negotiated comprehensive deals with ARTinCC, such that 1.0 miles of the trail now can be built – once the money is raised to do so.  In January of 2020, the Hunt Bros. on the far south end of the gap just north of the Foxburg Bridge agreed to sell their 1.4+ acre parcel to ARTinCC.  This parcel will be used for the Trailhead on the south end with associated parking, as well as a small community park just north of the Foxburg Bridge, which should become a jewel of Foxburg Borough.  In April of 2020, ARTinCC filed a grant application with DCNR for 50% of the overall $76,000 purchase price for the parcel.  The announcement of the award by DCNR was issued on October 15, 2020.  The money may be paid early in 2021, thus ARTinCC is gearing up for the planning associated with the Trailhead as well as the small community park.

Throughout 2020, ARTinCC negotiated with Guy Shoup, who owns a large interstate trucking company next to the former PRR right of way.  On October 07, 2020, Mr. Shoup and ARTinCC executed a formal Settlement Agreement resolving all aspects of the pending Action to Quiet Title.  The Settlement provided everything that ARTinCC needed to build the bike trail over the full mile from the Foxburg bridge north to the border with Richland Township in Clarion County.  A local newspaper article in the Progress News, released on October 20, 2020, discusses the details of the Shoup Settlement Agreement.

Negotiations with the remaining landowners will proceed with the Shoup Agreement pointing the way.