Charting New Territory: Colcom Foundation’s Continued Commitment to the September 11th National Memorial Trail

A new section of the September 11th National Memorial Trail near Garrett, Pennsylvania, is underway thanks to the Appalachian Regional Commission and philanthropic organizations such as Colcom Foundation.

The September 11th National Memorial Trail is a tribute to the victims of the tragic events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. The trail serves as a lasting memorial, honoring the lives lost during the devastating terrorist attacks.

In the wake of the national tragedy of September 11, a group of conservation and recreation leaders gathered near the Pentagon, just moments away from the heart of the nation’s capital.

This meeting became the catalyst for the idea of a multi-use trail that would connect the Pentagon, the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Twin Towers in New York City.

Under the guidance of David Brickley, the conference chair and director of Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, the concept of the September 11th National Memorial Trail took shape.

Through unwavering determination and collaboration with government entities at all levels, trail organizations, and the support of conservation organizations like Colcom Foundation, the Foundation navigated the complex process of planning, development, and implementation. Their collective work transformed the initial vision into a tangible reality.

 The multi-use trail system spans 1,300 miles, cutting across Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. It combines existing trail systems and highway routes with continuous efforts to create new trails and provide alternative routes for hikers and bikers, minimizing their exposure to vehicle roads.

The new section of the September 11th National Memorial Trail in Garrett, Pennsylvania, is a crucial addition to the overall trail network. This section spans approximately 1.4 miles.

The newly planned section of the 9/11 Trail will follow a route that initially traverses through the center of Garrett, Pennsylvania, using existing roads. From there, it will transition onto an abandoned CSX railbed, covering a distance of half a mile. The railbed was made available thanks to the generosity of CSX Chairman Michael Ward, who responded positively to a request from 9/11 Trail founder David Brickley in 2015.

The half-mile stretch of the railbed initially presented challenges and incurred significant expenses for the project. It had become a below-grade wetland area, covered in knee-high mud and overgrown with weeds and trees.

To overcome this obstacle, Somerset County purchased wetland mitigation credits and enlisted the help of the county jail inmate crew, as well as the county trail maintenance staff, to clear the brush. Through their dedication and hard work, what was once an impassable area has been transformed into a walkable trail, marking a significant milestone in the project’s progress.

Colcom Foundation joined other organizations and entities in providing financial assistance for the trail’s development. Funding for this phase of design and engineering amounted to $54,100.

Lindsay Pyle, the Somerset County Parks and Trails Director, plays a crucial role in her county’s portion of the project. Pyle aims to convert former railroad beds into trails, contributing to the expansive trail system. Somerset County is expected to have approximately 45 miles of the trail upon its completion, with 1.5 miles already open off the highway.

The trail’s development also involves the expertise of APEX Companies, formerly known as CME Engineering, which has been selected as the contractor for this phase. With their past experience working on projects for Somerset County, particularly at Somerset Lake Nature Park, APEX Companies is well-positioned to navigate the challenges of this critical trail section. The design and engineering process is estimated to take approximately six months to complete.

The community’s interest and enthusiasm for the September 11 Memorial Trail are evident. People are already biking from Garrett to the Flight 93 National Memorial, leaving the Great Allegheny Passage to experience the memorial.

The trail’s impact on local communities is expected to be substantial. With over a million visits recorded on the Great Allegheny Passage, towns like Garrett and Berlin stand to benefit from the increased trail traffic, with opportunities for businesses such as shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfast establishments. Becoming a hub between two massive trail systems will bring an influx of visitors and create a vibrant community atmosphere.

The September 11th National Memorial Trail, envisioned as a 1,300-mile loop through the mid-Atlantic region, not only provides a safe and accessible outdoor experience for local residents and visitors but also serves as a pathway to discover new towns and explore historic sites.

The trail holds deep meaning, allowing for reflection and remembrance. Simultaneously, it offers economic growth and revitalization for the towns along its path. It also provides an engaging outdoor experience for visitors and residents alike.

The support provided by Colcom Foundation – a prominent philanthropic organization dedicated to promoting conservation, sustainability, and the preservation of natural resources – to the September 11th National Memorial Trail project is vital to its success and directly aligns with the objectives of the Foundation.

With a strong commitment to fostering a harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural world, the Colcom Foundation has played a significant role in advancing conservation efforts across various domains. The foundation provides grants and support to organizations and projects that aim to address pressing environmental challenges, protect wildlife habitats, restore ecosystems, and promote responsible land and water management.

Since 2018, Colcom Foundation has generously contributed over $400,000 in support, demonstrating its commitment to the development and preservation of the September 11th National Memorial Trail.

Colcom Foundation’s support of the trail serves a dual purpose, weaving the stories of the fallen into the very fabric of the landscape while also inspiring a collective commitment to safeguarding and preserving the natural beauty along the trail.

In doing so, the Foundation is contributing toward bringing beauty from the ashes of heartbreak – a testament to the power of the American spirit.


Olivia is a seasoned blogger with a flair for lifestyle and fashion. With over 6 years of experience, she shares her passion for the latest trends and styles, offering inspiration and guidance to her audience on all things lifestyle-related.

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