Happy trails at Montour

Because it’s still January, local gyms and health clubs are likely filled with people who made New Year’s Resolutions to get in shape and loose some pounds.

As the treadmills and ellipticals are in overdrive, there’s still an outlet that remains wide open.

Our local outdoor trails provide a great escape from the cramped fitness centers. And, thanks to a fairly mild winter, the trails have been easier to manage because there hasn’t been much snow to keep people inside. Most days, it has actually felt more like spring than winter.

Hopefully, I didn’t speak too soon.

But if the groundhog does see his shadow this week and there’s six more weeks of winter, there is even more reason to get excited for April, May and June.

One local trail has just garnered a unique distinction.

The Montour Trail, just about 20 minutes away from most spots in the Upper Ohio Valley, has recently been named the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Trail of the Year.

Since its inception in the late 1980s, the Montour Trail has serviced millions of visitors because of its length and variety of terrain. In all, it is a 63-mile system that connects to the Great Allegheny Passage, which leads to Washington D.C. and other distinct spots on the east coast.

Getting there is easy, too. The Panhandle Trail, which has been open for nearly 17 years, connects to the Montour Trail near McDonald, Pa.

Many local residents, including Michael D. McElwain, online editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times, take advantage of the Panhandle Trail in Colliers and Weirton because of its nearly-perfect pathways. Most of the Washington County portion of the Panhandle Trail is paved and, this past summer, a public opinion petition was presented to the Weirton Park Board to pave the parts in Hancock County.

Paved or unpaved, the Panhandle Trail is relatively flat and easy to navigate.

The Montour Trail is paved for its locales in Washington and Allegheny Counties. One of the reasons it was named the Trail of the Year is because of its recent developments to connect more loose ends around Coraopolis, Pa. and South Park Township. Soon, it will connect in the Pittsburgh suburb of Jefferson Hills.

The Montour Trail is also one of the only outdoor trails located near a large city that connects to an international airport. Such is the case with the Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay Township.

“Quality, benefits to the region, and a strong volunteer network and multitude of partnerships qualify Montour for this honor,” Pennsylvania DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said in a release.

If that’s not enough to want to take advantage of such a great resource, I don’t know what is.

Hopefully, the mid-winter motivation remains when the weather gets nicer, and stays nicer. It definitely will for those who maintain other trails in the tri-state region.

“With the publicity surrounding the honor comes a commitment from other trail groups to support their trail, improve it , if possible, and perhaps shoot for Trail of the Year honors in 2018,” said Terry Brady of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Trail of the Year.

(Peaslee is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mpeaslee@heraldstaronline.com and followed on Twitter at @HSDTsports)

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