Finding Smart Growth along the Great Alleghany Passage Trail

By David T. Whitaker, AICP

A seldom discussed element of Smart Growth involves trail corridors and the ability of communities large and small to create profitable businesses, home-grown employment opportunities and a renewed sense of place along abandoned rail lines and other newly developed multi-purpose trail corridors.

An exceptional example of rural recreational tourism-related Smart Growth can be found in the communities along the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Allegany County, Maryland.

Last month, Jamie Bridges of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and I bicycled 215 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail and the C&O Canal. It was a superb and highly memorable bicycle outing to check out the route for a possible future Maryland Department of Planning bicycle ride from Pittsburgh to Cumberland on the scenic and historic GAP Trail.  What was to be unique cycling adventure also turned into a lesson on the economic benefits of long-distance trail facilities on municipalities and boroughs along an extraordinary rail to trail link between Pittsburgh and Cumberland.