FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Susan Weaver, RTC
PITTSBURGH SCHOLARSHIP YOUTHS JOIN GREENWAY SOJOURN, JUNE 27-30
WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 27, 2007—Ten center-city boys and girls from Helen Faison Intermediate School in Pittsburgh and their five mentors will join the Greenway Sojourn in Cumberland, Md., on Wednesday, June 27, to pedal the Great Allegheny Passage. Accompanying them are 500 bicyclists from 34 states around the country who began their ride in the nation's capital Saturday, June 23, and will finish in Pittsburgh on this Saturday, June 30.
The young Sojourn scholarship riders, ages 1011, began cycling the Riverfront portion of the Passage on June 13, riding new mountain bikes. They've built up endurance on follow-up rides, coached by their assistant principal, Anthony Pipkin, and members of Pittsburgh's Major Taylor Cycling Club. As "scholarship" guests of the Sojourn, they will cycle 20 miles each day and share camping, meals, entertainment and other activities with all the other riders, who range in age from 5 to 86. As it continues, the tour will camp at the municipal ball park in Confluence, Pa., (June 28), Cedar Creek Park, Westmoreland County, Pa., (June 29) and finish in Pittsburgh at Station Square on June 30.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has organized this first-time "youth scholarship" program with the help of the Center for Minority Health (CMH) in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Stephen Thomas, Director of the Center, notes that "we have a great opportunity to invest in diversity as trail groups work to complete the last several miles of trail into downtown Pittsburgh during 2007 and 2008, thus bringing the Great Allegheny Passage closer and closer to neighborhoods where African Americans, Hispanics and other urban adults and young people have greater access. Now is the time to embrace diversity and get the word out." Dr. Thomas, a member of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Board of Directors, secured a grant of $4,500 from the Heinz Endowments in support of the youngsters' participation. Funding was also contributed by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation. CMH project director Mario Browne assisted with planning and choosing the Faison School to participate.
The Greenway Sojourn, June 23-30, celebrates the recent linking at Cumberland of two premier trails connecting Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. The union of the C&O Canal Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage has created the nation's longest multi-purpose trail, the route of this 335-mile, eight-day bike ride. The off-road tour, organized by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, is their sixth annual event and has been planned in tandem with the Allegheny Trail Alliance. Following a different route each year, the Sojourn celebrates newly opened trails and promotes filling the gaps in the regional rail-trail network. This year cyclists will pedal seven miles on road with a police escort between suburban McKeesport, Pa., and downtown Pittsburgh to highlight the "gap in the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage)."
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with more than 100,000 members, is the nation's largest trails organization dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines and connecting corridors. Founded in 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information visit www.railstotrails.org.