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Sep 12, 2017

New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, will be forever linked by the grief of the 9/11 attacks of 16 years ago.  Soon, organizers are hoping to connect them with a biking and walking trails, as well as quieter roadways, that cover 1,300 miles. 

On Monday's anniversary, organizers cut the ribbon in Shanksville to open a new 21-mile segment of the trail.

The planned network uses existing or soon-to-be built trails, but doesn't always follow the easiest path. For example, it goes out of its way to connect with the Garden of Reflection 9/11 memorial in Bucks County and Gettysburg National Military Park.


In 2015, cyclists rode from Shanksville, Pa., to New York City, approximating the route of the trail they hope to build. In Portland, near the Delaware Water Gap in northeast Pennsylvania, firefighters welcomed the riders with this giant American flag.
Credit Sept. 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance

The idea for the trail formed several days after the attacks.  Just blocks from the Pentagon, conservation and recreation leaders from across the country had come together for the Mid-Atlantic Governors Conference on Greenways, Blueways and Green Infrastructure.

In the time since, a nonprofit formed to plan and build the trail.

"There are all sorts of users of a trail such as this," said Andy Hamilton, board chair of the September 11 National Memorial Trail Alliance.  "Some are children with their parents out on a beautiful section of trail that exists today.  Or it could be somebody who's more adventurous and wants to be doing bicycle tourism and travel. 

"And they could be traveling for a week to two or three.  It would take them about three weeks to complete the 1,300 miles, probably."

In 2015, a group of cyclists traced the plan route between the Shanksville site where Flight 93 crashed and New York City.  Along the way, they were greeted with shows of patriotism, such as the giant American flag draped across the roadway in Portland, near the Delaware Water Gap.

Map shows the proposed route of the trail.
Credit Sept. 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance

The trail has recently won resolutions of support from local governments along the way. Last week, the Bucks County commissioners passed a resolution in support of the trail and plan to incorporate it into the county's trail network.

There's no completion date set for the trail, but it could be decades, according to Hamilton.

"I would like to say 20 years, but I'd like to also say that our children or our children's children may be the ones wrapping up the last and most difficult pieces," he said.

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