Allegheny County is already part of the Great Allegheny Passage, a trail that runs from here to Cumberland, Md. Now four parts of the county will gain the expertise of the Trail Town
program, which helps "to create a sustainable region through tourism," its program manager Will Prince says, "using the trail as an economic engine."
The four county locations (Pittsburgh's South Side as well as Homestead, McKeesport and Boston) were chosen because they have businesses and destinations next to the trail for visitors to stop, have a meal or stay overnight – and because they could have more such businesses.
The kick-off event for Trail Town here will be March 19 in West Homestead's Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational & Cultural Center
. Everyone is invited, says Prince, to meet trail groups, business owners and other local tourism experts to talk about improving the trail/town connection. Participants will walk the trail and walk the town, trying to see them from a visitor's perspective: How is access from the trail to the business district? What businesses that might attract trail users are lacking in town? Is the signage from trail to the business district clear? Are there fresh opportunities for development?
"It's a big expansion for our program," says Prince, whose organization already works with local trail groups in each county spot: Friends of the Riverfront
for Pittsburgh; Steel Valley Trail Council
for Homestead and Duquesne; McKeesport Trail Commission; and Mon/Yough Trail Council
for areas south of McKeesport to the county line.
In fact, Trail Town is simultaneously expanding throughout western Pennsylvania, partnering with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council
to create a 51-county trail coalition with 1,400 miles of trails. It will include trails in the state's oil region around Titusville and Oil City, the Montour Trail that joins Allegheny to Washington counties, the Trans-Allegheny Trail System that connects to Saltsburg and Ebensburg, and the Sheepskin Trail from near Connellsville to Dunbar.
Trail Town is a program of the Progress Fund
, a nonprofit loan fund focused on small businesses in the travel industry.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Will Prince, Trail Town