Lincoln Avenue Trail
By Jarod Trunzo
Executive Director of Latrobe Community Revitalization Program
Our new Lincoln Avenue Trail and Greenway has been truly transformational for our town and residents.
In an area of approximately two miles of compact residential density, our town was also home to an abandoned rail bed. This seemed in many ways to separate our town into two Latrobes—one above and one below the railroad tracks. Even the federal government used this line to define who was a residential resident and who was a rural resident. After years of envisioning and planning, the acquisition of the rail line by the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation, and aligning broad-based community support, a breakthrough in Keystone funding occurred. This was coupled with many generous donors, residents, businesses, local foundations, and the proactive work of Mayor Rosie Wolford, who influenced our local government to all come together to ultimately catalyze implementation. The dividing lines were soon blurred: young, old, infants, grandparents, teens, residents, visitors (and their respective pets), strollers, rollerbladers, and bicyclists began to use it almost instantly upon installation.
I also remember the initial crucible of dealing with those who resist change in general and how important it was to try to bring the public with us in the process, since for many people this was a radical concept. Still, the response upon implementing the trail was overwhelmingly positive and joyful.
The volume of those using the trail year-round, but especially in warm weather, seems to keep growing. I remember one of the final inspection meetings on site. The contractors were still paving, but people were so excited that they were using it on the one end that had literally just cooled and set. A friend of mine, Dr. Michael Krom, who is a professor at Saint Vincent College, was on the trail that day too. As I went to meet the contractor and our landscape architect, I took a photo of him and his daughter. It was the first time the training wheels had come off.
Nineteen new businesses have opened in the past three years, and a new elementary school will be constructed that will be connected to the trail itself. I still remember hearing someone tell me: “I met my neighbor for the first time; I’ve lived here for ten years and we never really spoke until we crossed on the Lincoln Avenue Trail.” We have carried the design ethic used for the trail into other aspects of our core downtown. Convincing planners that pedestrians, not vehicles, should be put first in all aspects of strategic urban design seems to happen with less effort once the public sees it in action. We are implementing an aggressive mature tree in the fall of 2017 and will continue to support upkeep and enhancements whenever possible.
The trail strikes me as one of the few places you will see people smiling and not staring at their phones. The many studies which note and correlate trail use to decreased depression, increase in life expectancy, calming of traffic, and increased property values—and the list keeps going—are unfolding, while the use of the trail keeps climbing. My three young daughters, Gianna, Sophia, and Avila refer to it as “that fun road.” That joy they had the first time they used it is shared across all demographics, as this is a trail that has truly become owned by the greatest asset in our community: our residents.