Laurel Highlands Summit 2011 summary

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A new mini-grant program for the Laurel Highlands was announced at the Summit on April 4, 2011, at the Fred Rogers Center of St. Vincent College in Latrobe.

"The Economic Impact of Tourism, Recreation, Trails, Conservation and Active Living"  is a powerpoint presentation that summarizes about 50 studies or reports. For instance, visitors spend $31 billion a year in Pennsylvania, the Lincoln Highway along attracts over $43 million in annual spending, state parks within the CLI generate 721 jobs, spending along the Great Allegheny Passage exceeds $40 million a year, cleaning up abandoned mine drainage (AMD) would increase property values by $4 million in Clearfield County alone, propertyy is worth more if it's near parks, and obesity siphens over 9% of health spending or $147 billion every year.  For that presentation, please click here.

Other highlights of the Summit follow.

In the keynote presentation (available here), Tood Poole, president of 4ward Planning, noted several things that bode well for tourism in the Laurel Highlands.  For instance, people are looking for one-tank vacations and spending more on “experiences” rather than material purchases, and 4.9 million people live within three hours.  These visitors spend money, creating direct, indirect and induced economic benefits for the region.

However, most of the benefits of open space and parks do not necessarily show up as a direct bottom line.  Poole outlined the benefits in four categorites.

  • Citizens can enjoy recreational amenities, mental and physical health, improved air and water Quality, and cultural amenities.
  • Businesses, especially those involved with visitors, receive increased revenues, while all businesses in the region enjoy improved employee recruitment and improved employee retention.
  • Property owners have increased property value, better stormwater management and the enhanced aesthetic value of the scenery.
  • Governments benefit from low cost ecosystem services, increased taxable values, and improved business retention and attraction.

The Conservation Coalition of the Laurel Highlands had a majaor role in developing the day's program:

  • The Coalition had its own track of breakout sessions on Marcellus Shale, farmland preservation/buy local, and biodiversity.
  • Each county has done a Greenways plan that includes recommended "conservation corridors" -- not just trail corridors.  Those reports and maps were available for review and comment. 
  • Coalition participants identified funding as their No. 1 issue, so another breakout session included an update on Renew Growing Greener and keynote speaker is a land-use economist.
  • Coalition participants also identified the need to better articulate the benefits of conservation, so the new report noted above was done to help address that concern.

Trail groups were a special focus as several communities have expressed interest in connecting to nearby assets, so the Trails 101 Track was developed with them in mind and had lots of information of value to others working on trail development.

  • Explore PA Traiilsl was the 1-stop shop for trails across the Commonwealth, so information was collected to makre sure trails here are accurately listed and described.
  • Another session help trails looking to develop a smart-phone app!
Date Posted: 
Wed, 2011-04-06