Officers and Board of Directors
Matthew B. Taladay, President
Nick Gianvito, Vice President
Tony Bofinger, Treasurer
Susan Wolfe, Secretary
Honorary Board members
Brief History of the Mahoning Shadow Trail
In the mid 1880’s railroad agents began purchasing land for construction
of a railway line that was planned to extend from Altoona to Pittsburgh. Dozens of
handwritten deeds were conveyed and filed with the Office of Recorder transferring
property that would ultimately become the corridor for the Mahoning Shadow Trail. The
railroad line, then known as the Pennsylvania Northwestern Railroad, was constructed in
the early 1890’s in time to service the numerous coal mines and coke ovens that
developed along the banks of the Mahoning Creek. The rail line was never completed all
the way to Pittsburgh, and its western terminus was the Village of Fordham, a town
which was planned and constructed by the railroad.
In its hay day, the rail line, which was acquired by and became a part of
the Pennsylvania Railroad, provided passenger and freight service to numerous
communities, including Winslow, Cloe, Punxsutawney, Clayville, Sportsburg, Horatio
and Fordham. Although passenger services was discontinued in the 1940’s, the railroad
continued freight service into the 1980’s when the line was deactivated and the rails’
ballast removed. It was then parceled off and sold to various private purchasers.
The Punxsutawney Area Rails to Trails Association was formed in
February, 1994 following a public meeting sponsored by the Punxsutawney Chamber of
Commerce to explore the idea of a local rail-trail. The Trail Association was
incorporated on May 1, 1995. Its stated purpose was the acquisition, development and
maintenance of recreational trails.
Early in its existence, the founding members of the Association
recognized the potential of the current trail corridor as a valuable community asset and an
ideal objective for trail development. Fortunately for the community, substantial portions
of the corridor had been purchased by farsighted and community-minded individuals.
What is now the western most portion of the trail from Indiana Street to Fordham was
purchased from Consolidated Rail Corporation by David and Debbie Osikowicz. The
eastern portion of the trail from Winslow Road to the skateboard park was acquired and
owned by John (“Butch”), George and David Prushnock.
Over the next several years, the Rails to Trails Association partnered with
the Jefferson County Department of Development and worked closely with the
landowners toward the acquisition and development of the former rail corridor as a
recreational trail. This process involved numerous grant applications, extensive deed
research and lots of administrative formalities and red tape. Then in January, 2000, an
arrangement was reached whereby the County, using matching grant money, purchased
the western most 7.3 miles of trail corridor for half of its appraised value. The
Osikowicz family then donated the purchase money to the Rail Trail Association for
engineering and development. A similar arrangement was reached with the Prushnock
brothers in January, 1991 for acquisition of 7.1 miles of the trail corridor on the eastern
end of the corridor. Thanks to this generosity, the Mahoning Shadow Trail was on its
way to becoming a reality.
The first major project undertaken was the refurbishment and re-decking
of the Mahoning Creek bridge near Water Street. This project was completed in 2000
and marked a symbolic milestone toward the goal of a continuous end-to-end trail. Over
the next several years, the Association worked diligently with the Department of
Development toward the goal of obtaining federal grant money for trail development.
This work paid off in 2002 when a grant was awarded for construction of Mahoning
Shadow Trail Phase I – the Indiana Street to Fordham section of the trail.
Bids were let in May, 2002 and construction commenced late that
summer. Phase I was completed and open for public use in 2002. In the meanwhile, the
trail group continued to work with the Department of Development for grant applications
for completion of Phases II and III of the trail. Phase II, which extends from the
skateboard park in East End to Winslow, Bell Township, was completed and open to
public use in 2004.
With Phase II of the trail completed, Phase III, intended to connect the
eastern and western portions of the trail, posed a number of problems. Much of the land
that comprised the original railroad line through Punxsutawney had been sold off into
small parcels and either contained buildings or other construction or contained low lying
swampy areas that would make their use as a trail impossible. In addition, the original
railroad underpass for Penn Street had been removed and filled in.
These problems were eventually surmounted through cooperative efforts
with the Punxsutawney Borough utilizing a portion of the flood control dike on the south
side of the Mahoning Creek as a trail corridor. Although plans for Phase III originally
called for construction of an underpass at Penn Street, a portion of the funds had to be
diverted to repair extensive flood damage on certain sections of the completed trail.
Nevertheless, Phase III, which consists of a paved asphalt surface and incorporates a
gently sloping ramp system to traverse Penn Street was completed and open to the public
In addition to the primary trail corridor, trail development has included
several easement agreements for trailhead use and a “land swap” in Fordham, which
involves swapping the original railroad property for land adjacent to road access to
permit trailhead development.
The Punxsutawney Area Rails to Trails Association continues to work in
conjunction with Jefferson County and local municipalities toward improvement of the
quality of life in our community. Most recently, the group, in conjunction with the Perry
Township Supervisors, constructed a multi-use pavilion at the Fordham trailhead. Other
projects are currently being planned.
Although the land underlying the trail is owned by Jefferson County,
responsibility for maintaining the trail belongs to the Punxsutawney Area Rails to Trails
Association who entered a maintenance agreement with the County in August, 2000.
Maintenance activities are carried out by a dedicated core group of volunteers with
assistance from trail users, community groups and the municipalities that the trail passes
through. In addition, the trail has been the beneficiary of generous donations of
equipment, materials and funds from numerous community businesses and individuals.
The Punxsutawney Area Rails to Trails Association is a tax exempt, non-
profit organization whose funding comes solely from donations and fundraising
activities. Fundraisers have included the annual Rails to Trails dance and the Mahoning
Shadow Shuffle, held on the second Saturday of October. The event, the tenth annual,
includes a half marathon, 10K run, and 5K walk/run. Awards are given for the first three
overall and first three age group finishers in each event. Awards will be given for the
first canine finisher in each race.