West Newton Borough is located approximately at the mid-point of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). The GAP is the longest “Rails to Trails” project in the U.S. which connects Pittsburgh and Cumberland, MD (and ultimately to the C&O Canal Trail to Washington D.C.). Several communities along the trail are reaping the benefits of improved connections and greater visibility to the trail in the form of new economic development activities in their downtowns. In 2004 the town undertook a master planning effort to identify strategic improvements it could make to attract more visitors and businesses to the downtown as a result of the growing ridership on the trail.
The creation of Simeral Square was a major recommendation of the town’s master plan and consists of a new town center plaza and farmers market pavilion located at the gateway into the town and adjacent to the Youghiogheny River. The site identified for these improvements consisted of a vacant apartment building and an abandoned gas station brownfield site with underground contamination. The project included removal of the underground storage tanks and extensive environmental remediation. The design of the square was responsive to the environmental “closure” requirements stipulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protections Act 2 Voluntary Clean-up Program.