The Friends groups started with people who live in the same area, gathering to take care of the portion of the Montour Trail near them. They are community organizations, dedicated to being good stewards of a recreational jewel that’s right where they live. They recognize how fortunate they are; clearly not every community has such a trail.
Friends groups serve as an easy and welcome pathway to new people becoming involved with the Trail. Most of the day-to-day maintenance is performed by one of seven local Friends-of-the-Trail groups plus one municipality. Each group meets monthly and schedules frequent work parties on the Trail. The Friends are officially responsible for maintaining local sections of the trail; in addition, there is one group dedicated to researching and preserving the history of the Montour Railroad. Our Friends groups also need help in staffing their own fundraisers for local maintenance.
Back in 1985, before the Montour Trail Council even got started, the municipality of Peters Township purchased an abandoned rail right-of-way and established the Arrowhead Trail. The municipality funded and arranged for its three early 1900s-era rail bridges to be replaced by modern structures. Today, the Montour Trail connects to Arrowhead at three places. In general, if the trail you’re on in Peters is asphalt, it’s the Arrowhead Trail; if it’s crushed limestone, it’s the Montour.
Peters Township maintains Arrowhead using Public Works Department staff and accepts maintenance requests via the PT4me smartphone app or iframe.publicstuff.com/#?client_id=1475. The section that PWD is responsible for runs through MP 30.5 — 33.7 and MP B-2.8 — B-3.3.
Information on “official” Friends groups and related volunteer opportunities is listed below. We are always looking for new volunteers to help out! Also see our event calendar for specific meeting dates.
Montour Trail Friends groups spring into action when nature gets in the way. Regular patrols and unofficial Facebook Enthusiasts group page notifications help to alert users and volunteers alike when there is an issue, such as a downed tree blocking the path.
Montour Trail offers many opportunities for Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts to earn merit badges by building trailside benches, developing interpretive signage, or working on any number of Trail improvements. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The MTC is looking for a few good men — and women — to join the Montour Trail Patrol. The current group engages people from all walks of life, assisting Trail users when they need help. Since members patrol mostly via bicycle, they can survey a sizable area and be on the spot when it’s most important. Volunteers perform a number of “duties,” including helping to fix stranded Trail bikers’ mechanical problems, keeping an eye out for illegal vehicles tearing up the pathway, providing surveillance of the Trail’s parking areas, and patrolling the Tour the Montour bike ride event in the fall. They also are trained in first aid and CPR, and many Trail Patrol members carry first aid kits.
If you are interested in participating in the Patrol group, contract Jesse Forquer, director of trail security, at email@example.com.
Airport Area Friends
The Montour Trail’s first 4.3 miles alone has 4,800 feet of split-rail fencing. Thus, the Airport Friends spend a good percentage of volunteer time fixing the rails. Their “fun” work parties also entail removing downed trees, controlling weed and brush, resurfacing the trail, filling in potholes, painting gates, and staining benches. Their most significant project this year is the addition of 0.8 mile of trail connecting MM 0.0 to Montour Street in Coraopolis.
Airport Friends also network with area businesses, which often results in corporate work parties where employees assist Friends-group volunteers in Trail maintenance. For example, Allegheny County Airport Authority staff regularly help out in observance of Earth Day. Boy Scouts frequently obtain Eagle Scout ranking for their projects on this section of Trail.
The Airport Area Friends of the Trail meets every second Wednesday at 7:00 PM at the Forest Grove Fire Hall, 2044 Ewings Mill Road, Robinson Township, 15108. New volunteers are always welcome. Contact Mark Modispacher at 412-266-1544 for more information.
Numerous Saturday work parties are held during the season. Call 412-262-3748 to sign up to lend a hand.
Fort Cherry Friends of the Trail
The Fort Cherry section of the Montour Trail travels through mostly rural terrain, with the McDonald Trestle (the Trail’s longest viaduct, which also offers stunning views) and Quicksilver Bridge (a strikingly designed structure) crossing roadways along its route, almost begging motorists to gawk. Construction of the nearby Southern Beltway (I-576) is expected to change the rustic setting: Planned residential and business developments will attract new home owners and commerce — and, we hope, new Trail users.
This small Friends team of dedicated Fort Cherry volunteers logs over 600 hours annually mowing grass, trimming weeds, repairing fences, refurbishing bridge decking, grading/resurfacing parking areas, removing tree falls, and clearing construction debris accumulated as a result of nearby local property development and highway construction (I-576 beltway).
Meetings are held the second Wednesday of each month at the McDonald Trail Station next to the Panhandle Trail, 160 S. McDonald Street, McDonald, at 6:30 PM. Work parties are scheduled as needed. For more information, contact Deb Esia at 724-350-5565 or Chuck Hughey at 724-926-9436.
The Friends occasionally take on fundraising efforts, particularly when new equipment (like tractors) is needed. Group members enlist the help of municipal and county officials to deal with overwhelming issues (like trail encroachment and overgrowth clearing).
Westland Friends of the Trail
Some of the most rural and scenic portions of the Montour Trail fall within Westland Friends’ territory. For the long term, we hope to preserve this rural beauty for Trail users (especially in the upper Westland Branch).
The Westland Friends group maintains five miles of Trail consisting of the entire Westland Branch and a 0.9-mile section of the main line. This group is responsible for maintaining two trailheads (Galati Road and Westland) plus the Gilmore Junction pavilion. Territory resides entirely within Washington County and passes through two townships (Cecil and Mt. Pleasant). A shipping container shed at the Galati Road Trailhead contains tools and supplies for ready maintenance.
Core volunteer work primarily involves mowing trail edges, cutting protruding growth, patching trail ruts and trash removal. The group is also involved with other (non-core) activities such as improving signage, planting grass for long-term erosion control, and trail beautification. Volunteer efforts are typically performed during planned work parties and/or self-directed individual efforts. Westland Friends also promotes year-round maintenance activities, and has developed experience and techniques to effectively work during the winter months.
Westland Friends challenges include growing the new group (established August 2017), working around fencing on the trail edges, and dealing with issues related to the nearby active railroad.
Group meetings are held the third Thursday of each month, starting 1:30 pm, at the Montour Trail headquarters building in Bridgeville. (During the Covid pandemic, meetings moved outside to Galati trailhead pavilion.) For information, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org , or text/call Dave Hajnik at 412-498-3854.
Cecil Friends of the Trail
The first tangible milestone of the Montour Trail was the completion of a 4.5-mile segment in Cecil Township, which opened in 1992. The following year, Cecil Trail enthusiasts held their first meeting, a prototype for what would become the official network of Friends groups.
This Friends group maintains National Tunnel, a “wet” structure whose dripping water forms huge icicles and a frozen pathway in winter. Over the years, volunteers have conducted experiments aimed at keeping the tunnel above freezing and, thus, safe to travel through. They recently completed constructing a permanent plywood airlock that solves the problem.
Cecil volunteers plan and stage the National Tunnel Run/Walk each spring, a fundraiser that offers participants race support and a celebratory lunch.
From May to August, meetings are held at the Cecil Henderson Road (Kurnick) access area; otherwise, the group meets at the Trail office (304 Hickman Street, Bridgeville). Call 412-257-2553 for more information.
Work and clean-up parties are every third Saturday of the month at 9:00 AM, subject to change, meeting at the storage shed at Hendersonville. Watch the Facebook group for announcements, or call 412-496-4308 for more information.
Peters Friends of the Trail
The Peters Friends group is responsible for maintaining approximately 3.75 miles of Trail in Peters Township that is not part of the Arrowhead Trail – which includes the Greer Tunnel and its abutting bridges. The Friends’ biggest challenge is educating the local community about the differences between operating and maintaining these sister trails, and one good opportunity for that is staffing an informational booth at Peters Community Day in late June.
Meetings are the first non-holiday Monday of the month at 7:00 PM. The group typically meets in the Peters Township Community & Recreation Center but occasionally selects other venues. To check on location, for information on meetings, or details about the Friends group in general, contact Mark Imgrund at PetersFriends@montourtrail.org. You can also connect with the Peters Friends through Peters Township Friends Facebook.
Volunteer “work” along the Trail includes the usual: cutting grass, pruning trees and controlling the never-ending growth of weeds. Others in the group strategize and manage growth: obtaining grants for operation and Trail maintenance, maintaining meeting minutes, and securing donations. Friends volunteers also coordinate scout projects and local business volunteers to work on the Trail. For more information on work parties, contact Jim Robbins at 724-941-6132 or PetersFriends@montourtrail.org.
The Peters Friends also stage two fundraising events each year: an annual Penny Day that places volunteers along the Trail to collect donations, and Twilight Walk in summer that includes refreshments and raffles. They also help to staff the 62-mile turn-around rest stop for the Tour the Montour bike ride in September.
Bethel Friends of the Trail
Because the Bethel Branch runs through a densely populated area, it comprises some of the most-used miles in the Montour Trail system. Litter is seldom a problem, since many Trail users help with that. What locals rely on the Friends group for is to keep their pathway wide (frequent mowing), clear (removing intrusive vegetation), and in good repair, otherwise known as “Bethel standards.”
Bethel Friends also stage two major fundraisers each year. The J. R. Taylor 5K Race/Walk in the spring depends on more than a dozen volunteers, and Penny Day in the fall relies on another 18 or so who volunteer at collection sites along the trail.
Meetings are held every first Tuesday of the month at 7:30 PM at the Bethel Park Municipal Building Caucus Room located immediately behind council chambers. Anyone interested in the Bethel Park Trail segment is encouraged to come. Contact Peter Kohnke at 724-518-9251 for more information.
To keep the Trail in top shape for its many regular users, Bethel Park work and clean-up parties are held twice a month, every second and fourth Saturday of each month at 8:30 AM. Call Mark DeJohn at 412-523-2108 for location and information.
South Hills Friends of the Trail
The South Hills Friends group typically removes about 10 downed or leaning trees a year. Winter 2010 was a bit atypical: Heavy February snows brought down dozens of trees, and chainsaw-wielding volunteers spent many hours clearing the Trail. To avoid a repeat in winter 2018, the Friends cleared four downed trees and felled an additional 35 that posed a potential hazard to Trail users — all part of staying ahead of the job.
The South Hills Friends also stage an annual Penny Day, a fundraiser that places volunteers along the Trail to collect donations.
Meetings are the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 PM at the South Park Township Community Room or the Township Library, both located at the Township Building at 2675 Brownsville Road, South Park.
Work and clean-up parties are held on the second Saturday of the month. All volunteers are welcome to participate. For more information, contact Dave Oyler at 412-831-9288 or SouthHillsFriends@montourtrail.org, or Paul McKeown at 412-835-6692 or SouthHillsFriends@montourtrail.org.
Montour Railroad Historical Society
The Historical Society (MRHS) aims to research, preserve and teach the history of the Montour Railroad. As it memorializes the Montour, the group is open to discussion about coal mines, industries, communities, and interconnecting railroads along the Montour’s route. There are no membership requirements other than an interest in preserving the memories of our “Old Friend.”
The society, 350+ members strong, researches and installs historical interpretive signage along the Trail, generally near trailheads and access areas. In addition, its members regularly supply articles for the Montour Trail-Letter and maintain a Facebook page. Volunteers also exhibit memorabilia and poster displays at community and trail functions throughout the year.
Work parties are regularly held to build, erect or restore the signs and mileposts; volunteers put in many hours of computer time to research and write. Outings known as “Mon-tour”s are held by the members to explore some of the physical remains of the former railroad.
For information, contact email@example.com, or call Bryan Seip at 724-263-4667.