Construction on the first phase of the Somerset Lake trail project is almost complete.
Crews are building a 5-mile handicap-accessible trail loop around the lake. They also plan to add pavilions, benches and more.
Construction on the first phase began in August. Workers fixed drainage issues, built a handicap-accessible parking lot and ramp and the first section of the trail near the north boat launch.
Ian Mapes loves to hike and fish, so he said he’s happy to hear the lake is getting an upgrade.
“It’s not a swimming lake, but I fished when I was younger. it definitely has great opportunity to be something,” Mapes said.
The lake was drained last year to repair the dam, but David Leake still enjoys his lunch breaks there.
“We have a lot of beautiful, you know, parks and forests and things, but you have to drive a little bit. The lake, you can get to in 5 minutes from here,” Leake said.
Dave Thomson works in downtown Somerset and said nearby recreational opportunities keep the economy thriving.
“It’s important for the economic viability of the community to have recreation, tourism, to lure folks to the community, to maintain, to keep folks here,” Thomson said.
The project got a $50,000 grant from the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission, then a matching $50,000 donation.
Since the lake is drained, Somerset County Trails Manager Brett Hollern said now is the perfect time to get to work.
“It would allow us to get access to certain parts of the lake and make trail construction a little bit easier,” Hollern said.
Now, project leaders want to map out the rest of the trail by the end of the year before they can apply for permits with the Department of Environmental Protections to begin construction.
The entire project could take several years to complete. Locals said the wait will be worth it.
“The skiing in the winter, the hiking, the biking: it all goes together,” Thomson said.
“I will absolutely use the trail,” said Leake.
“As far as trails: more parking, anything out there for community event-hosting would be a really good thing to do,” said Mapes.
Project leaders will be looking for more grants and fundraising opportunities to continue the project.