Luke Lockard, an upcoming senior at Central Cambria High School, recently completed a 50 ft. bridge construction project on the future Ghost Town Trail extension as part of his Eagle Scout Project. Lockard worked with the Cambria County Conservation & Recreation Authority, who owns the trail, throughout all phases of the project. Funding was provided by the Penelec Fund for the Future of Greater Johnstown through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.
The bridge is located in Revloc on the 7.5 mile section of the Ghost Town Trail that still needs to be developed. The initial 8 miles of the Ghost Town Trail extension, from White Mill to North St., will be completed within the next month thanks to funding from a PennDOT Transportation Alternative Program grant.
Lockard and volunteers worked on the bridge construction project on July 8th and July 15th. He worked with his father and 15 other volunteers, including six youth and nine adults, on the project.
“The most rewarding part of the project was being able to complete a bridge that will be used by people in the future as well as helping Cambria County out as a whole to expand the trails,” Lockard said. “The Ghost Town Trail is a very well-known part of Cambria County, so I would like to continue expanding trails so that they become even more well-known in the future.”
Pre-construction planning for the bridge started during the spring of 2016. Part of the pre-construction phase consisted of Lockard communicating with the contractor and hauling back the bridge material to the construction site with volunteers. They had to remove a yard’s worth of shale covering that covered the railroad ties. They kept the existing jersey barriers in place on either end of the bridge, for safety reasons, until the trail officially opens.
During construction, Lockard and volunteers laid down 2x12s on the sides to use as a foundation for the decking. Then, they installed a criss-cross pattern of 2x4s and 2x8s for the decking foundation. Railing posts and the railings were then installed. The project construction took a total of eight hours of work on-site.
“Luke’s project will be used and enjoyed by local and visiting trail users for years to come,” Leanna Bird, Programs & Communications Coordinator for the Cambria County Conservation & Recreation Authority said. “The current 36-mile Ghost Town Trail sees approximately 80,000 trail users every year. Upon the future completion of the 15 mile extension project, the GTT will be the first continuous-loop rail-trail in the U.S. and is expected to attract an even greater number of trail users to the region.”
Lockard thanked the many volunteers who donated their time, equipment, and services to help with the project. Lockard’s uncle donated a quad to use for hauling project material. Kevin O’Brien provided a chainsaw to help clear the trees blocking the undeveloped trail. Ron McCuster, who is a local private contractor, also donated much of his personal time towards helping the project.
“More people should get involved with community service and projects like this one. You get to see what it’s like to take charge of a project, and you’re also helping the community at the same time,” Lockard said. “You can give back in so many ways, whether it’s building a bridge or planting a garden. It’s a great way to give back to the community.”
Lockard has to submit the paperwork for finishing the project within the next few weeks. He will then speak in front of the Boy Scouts of America Council in Pittsburgh this August. He will then hear if he is approved for the Eagle Scout Award in the fall.
Lockard started as a Cub Scout in 1st grade and continued with the Boy Scouts throughout his childhood into high school. After graduating next year, Lockard plans to attend college for business administration.
Lockard said, “To do something that will actually last and make an impact in the community that your kids and others will be able to enjoy for generations to come is important.”
The current 8 mile Ghost Town Trail extension project, which follows the C and I railroad corridor from White Mill to Cardiff, is funded through a PennDOT TAP Grant, with funding assistance from the Community Initiatives Fund and the Penelec Fund for the Future of Greater Johnstown through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. Other partners include the C and I Trail Council and Blacklick Twp. Supervisors.
The 8 mile extension continues from the end of the current four mile Rexis Branch spur of the Ghost Town Trail at White Mill Crossing, past Belsano Crossing, to North Street in Cardiff. The project includes the construction of two former railroad bridges on the corridor. Once the entire extension is completed, it will be the first continuous loop rail-trail in the U.S., according to the Rails to Trails Conservancy. The approximate 7.5 miles of the extension that remain will eventually connect back onto the developed Ghost Town Trail in Cambria Twp., near the Rt. 219 overpass. The CCCRA is currently seeking funding to complete the remaining 7.5 miles.