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Kinzua Sky Walk named cultural best

By BRIAN FERRY

bferry@timesobserver.com

A regional attraction has been named among the best of the best for group tours.

The Kinzua Sky Walk, Kinzua Bridge State Park, in McKean County, is one of the American Bus Association’s 22 Cultural Best of Best for 2019.

“The unique and exhilarating experience of peering hundreds of feet down into the valley through glass on the skywalk at Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County is drawing in growing numbers of visitors from across the country and world, and accolades,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.

“In 2011, DCNR created a skywalk utilizing six of the remaining towers of the historic Kinzua Viaduct after most of the structure was toppled by a tornado back in 2003, according to a DCNR release. “This gave visitors a view of the Kinzua Creek Valley Gorge below. In 2014, the Kinzua Skywalk was named one of the Top 10 Skywalks in the world.”

That’s great for Warren County residents who can get to the Sky Walk in an hour or so.

It’s also good for the economy. Having a neighboring attracting receive laurels is a boon to the Warren County tourism industry.

“We typically don’t have a week go by without somebody stopping in here and asking us about Kinzua Bridge Skywalk.” Warren County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Dave Sherman said.

“At certain times of the year, we have multiple individuals or groups tell us they are on their way over there that day,” Sherman added, “What’s even more fun is when visitors tell us they’re headed east and they have no idea that the Skywalk even exists.”

According to Sherman, once new visitors have received the literature and started talking about it, 9 times out of 10 they decide to make it part of their plans or for the next time they visit.

“We love watching the light bulb go off as they change their plans.” Sherman said. “We just had two motorcyclists from Southeastern Ohio randomly stop in Warren on Tuesday. They had no plans to go the skywalk. Didn’t know what it was, where it was, how it become an attraction. 20 minutes later, they couldn’t wait to get there.”

Roughly an hour’s drive from Warren, Sherman suggests that many of those visitors often end up sticking around here for hours, days, maybe even a week.

“That’s money immediately pumped into our local economy.” Sherman said.

He also mentions the occasional overlap of visitors at the Dam who are seeking the Skywalk and vice versa.

“Sometimes we have to make visitors aware that Kinzua Dam and Kinzua Bridge Skywalk are not a few minutes apart.” Sherman explained. “Many have never been here, or are only aware of the dam. It takes less than two minutes to clarify and have them on their way. For many who travel here from hundreds of miles away, an extra 40 minutes or so from the dam to get to the park isn’t a deterrent. It’s an incentive.”

Sherman is not at all surprised by the recognition.

“It’s so well-deserved,’ he said, “We’re curious why it took this long.”

“We often say that park is a classic example of a group of people turning lemons into lemonade.” Sherman said. “Our sources tell us over 252,000 visitors stopped at the visitors center over there in 2018. We are very much aware here that many of those visitors were here first or are driving through Warren County after having visited the park and continuing west.”

Sherman emphasized how much the WCVB enjoys their relationship with the Kinzua Bridge Park personnel.

“We just delivered 1800 Warren County visitors guides to them last Friday, per their request,” according to Sherman. “In 2019, they’ll end up with somewhere between 4000-5000 of them. We always smile when they are getting low and need more. That means visitors are picking them up…and finding out about the great things in Warren County.”

“The staff at Kinzua Bridge State Park have been doing a wonderful job in creating and presenting interesting and experiential programs both for motorcoach groups and students,” Linda Devlin, Executive Director, Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau, said. “The amazing asset of the Kinzua Sky Walk attracts the motorcoach groups, but it is the programming presented by the staff which earned Kinzua Bridge State Park the designation of ‘2019 Best of the Best’ by the American Bus Association’s Destinations magazine.”

The Kinzua Sky Walk is just one of the many attractions near the Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania’s only National Forest, which offers more than 513,000 acres of public lands for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and camping or escaping into nature in a log cabin, according to DCNR.

“Nearly 10 million travelers visit our national and state park sites each year,” Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Deputy Secretary of Marketing, Tourism, and Film Carrie Fisher Lepore said. “Pennsylvania’s greater-than-great outdoors boasts endless one-of-a-kind experiences, and Kinzua Bridge State Park is a true gem of the state.”

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