Smethport Web — by Nathan Muller
A ceremony was held in Smethport, Pennsylvania, for the official opening of the Shawmut Trail. The event, hosted by the Potato Creek Trail Association, was held at the Shawmut Trail Head northwest of Marvin Creek Bridge.
Porter, a founding member of the PCTA, and speaking for the organization, congratulated members of the PCTA, Smethort Borough Council and the McKean County Commissioners for their efforts in bringing the trail project to completion. Porter singled out Donald “Corky” Hull for providing exceptional leadership and contributing decades-long trail experience to the project planning table.
The trail is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Douglas Bowman, who used the trail for his annual two-mile “Walk with Doc” health and nature walks. Walkers crossed the Marvin Creek bridge, then followed the Shawmut railroad grade at the rear of the county property, to US Route 6 and on to Hamlin Lake Park and the Goose Chaser Trail, then returned back to the Shawmut Grade and the Poor Farm.
Hull and PCTA president Steven Brougham cut the ribbon to officially open the gravel-paved trail, which also includes a bridge.
Attendees at the event included Joe DeMott, representing the McKean County Commissioners, and Greg Rounsville, representing the Smethport Borough Council.
Transcript of Remarks by Ross Porter
Welcome and thank you for attending the ribbon-cutting for the Shawmut Railroad Grade Poor Farm Trail.
The Potato Creek Trail Association was formed in 2007 under the auspices of the Borough of Smethport with a mission to develop a network of trails in and around Smethport. We have several trail systems including the Wolfinger Trail Network on Townhill, the Goosechaser trail in Hamlin Park, the Potato Creek Water Trail leading to the Allegheny River, and the Shawmut trail. This is the first trail that required a substantial amount of engineering and capital outlay to make a reality.
I want to acknowledge and thank several key people who assisted in making this trail a reality.
Mr. Donald “Corky” Hull for his years of relentless work on the development of a trail system in and around Smethport. And with Corky, the Seneca Highlands Snowmobile Association which Mr. Hull formed 42 years ago in 1972.
I also want to thank and dedicate this trail to Dr. Douglas Bowman, who made this trail part of his annual “Walk With Doc” events. We salute and thank Doug for his vision and belief in this trail and to the health attributes associated with hiking and walking.
I need to also thank Gregory Rounsville , President of the Borough Council and the Smethport Borough Council for their belief in and support of this trail and the network of trails being developed in and around the Borough of Smethport.
I also want to thank Borough employees, especially Michael Tanner, for his continued work on behalf of this trail and the trail system network. I also want to mention Bill Gallup, Dan Isadore and Don Gamot,
Also huge in their participation on the commitment to trails and to this trail has been Judge John Pavlok, Michael Barnard and the McKean County Commissioners Joseph DeMott, Al Pingie and Cliff Lane. The County and the Borough have been remarkable partners along with the Potato Creek Trail Association in making this trail possible.
I also need to single out and recognize as well as thank Curt Wallace and Wallace Engineering for the countless hours of donated time and expertise in creating the engineering drawings for a variety of aspects of the trail, its bridges and its design.
I also need to thank the Department of Natural Resources, Adam Mattis, Meredith Hill for the initial grant seed money that was matched by the Borough, the County and the Trail Association for both in-kind donations and cash donations.
I want to acknowledge and thank North Central Planning Commission Tom Buck for being the gatekeeper of the DCNR funds as we navigated through the paperwork associated with the grant development.
Finally I want to thank the PCTA, its members, its president Steve Brougham, Claudia Caminite, Jim Wallace, Jim Herzog and all the other members who participated in the development of this trail.
The McKean County Poor Farm is a unique jewel in Smethport.
Constructed in 1883 and opening in 1884 it was one of many Poor Farms and Poor Houses funded and operated by at the county level of government across the United States. This was prior to any federal intervention into welfare.
The county provided living quarters for indigent, impoverished people and in turn they ran the county farm that provided food for the County Jail, the “Old Folks Home,” and the Poor Farm residents.
But with the development of the FDR’s New Deal, the federal government took over this role and the Poor Farms and Poor Houses evaporated. Most were torn down and suburbs expanded and covered the land.
Only a few Poor Farms remain in the United States and only one, the McKean County facility, still operates an agricultural program that has been adapted to meet the needs of County inmates and individuals on probation.
The buildings are being restored, the usage of the property has been adapted, and the original bridge is being saved.