After months of workshops and planning, a final design is in sight for the Route 6 Alliance.
Rick Truscello, EADS Group Planning Services manager, and Terri Dennison, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Route 6 Alliance, were at the Warren Hampton Inn Friday morning to present a final workshop review and public input session of the Community Work Plan for Route 6 tourism in Warren County.
The session is the final step before creating a finalized plan for tourism development along what National Geographic has named "one of America's most scenic drives."
The recommendations are the culmination of a months-long partnership between the Warren Communities Program Stakeholders Group and the alliance to enhance Warren's status as a tourist destination along the state route by embracing its existing resources.
"We're here to see the final recommendations from all those workshops," Dennison said.
Truscello noted he had worked in 20 different communities across the 427.5-mile route stretching across Pennsylvania's northern tier. He said the group is using a "highly localized" approach to the project highlighting what each community has to offer.
According to Truscello, "The special qualities of communities along route 6 add that special vibe to the corridor."
In a Power Point presentation Truscello noted trends in tourist activities he feels Warren is poised to take advantage of. According to Truscello, the leading activities tourists engage in while visiting an area are shopping, dining and non-attraction entertainment. He noted out of the average 14 hours per day tourists are active they only spend an average of 6 hours at the attraction they visited for. He stated a large number of food establishments, curb appeal, stores with hours after 6 p.m. and a pedestrian-friendly environment tend to attract tourists. He also pointed out 80 percent of tourist spending is directed to non-attraction activities.
The presentation noted Warren's key tourist types are regional and nature tourists, short trip excursionists in town for a day or weekend visit, art enthusiasts and business travelers.
According to Truscello, the work plan needs to focus on a balance of natural, cultural and heritage resources. He noted the area "needs to keep things going on to attract visitors" and "sell the experience." He pointed out a rich arts community, early oil and industry, agriculture, commerce history, natural features, historical significance, an aesthetically pleasing streetscape and a number of local festivals as resources which could be used to attract tourism.
"Let's take stock of what we have," Truscello said noting a need to focus on existing themes.
Truscello stated the area needs to focus on providing large amounts of easy to access information with a personal touch. He noted an online presence is key in today's market and should be used in addition to traditional flyers. Truscello also suggested co-ordinating marketing between different groups and events to provide "one-stop shopping" for attraction information. He stated co-ordination would help highlight "the Warren experience."
"You need to have a blend of printed media and electronic," stated Dennison noting print is still important. "You need to get that out there and link that presence to as many people as you can"
Truscello also noted a more signage could be utilized to create a "more welcoming entranceway" in areas leading into and out of Warren.
"We see communities are pretty good at telling people where they are," noted Truscello. "They need to improve on telling people why they should go there."
Truscello said centralizing information on the areas tourism resources would help in showcasing Warren County's attractions. He suggested displays on past and present industry in a centralized location such as the library or in a museum as an example.
Truscello also said co-ordinating events is important. He suggested groups work to schedule events at the same time to provide activities for visitors. He also suggested co-ordinating smaller events in the downtown area to correspond to and compliment larger events being held outside of town due to size constraints. He suggested better connections to the Betts Park area should also be explored.
Truscello noted improved connections to get to and from downtown would be a key component in implementing these sorts of events.
Truscello said he sees a need for improvement in connections between county towns and surrounding natural assets. He cited the Kinzua Pathways, the North Warren trail and a number of trails surrounding Youngsville and Tidioute could be better linked to communities. He also noted the value of having the Allegheny River running through Warren could be exploited for tourism.
Truscello stated the city needs to account for "access gaps" between the river and "walkable Warren." He noted there was some confusion whether Breeze Point Park is public or private, but noted it could provide river access if it is public land.
Truscello said the plan would also advise continuation of the Main Street program, addressing the few gaps in event schedules throughout the year, exploring ethnic festivals and church tours, and a centralized website with information on Warren attractions.
"Co-ordination is the biggest issue," noted Truscello. "you need to create an identity that answers 'Why come to Warren?' and 'What is Warren?'. Try to incorporate the balance of resources in the identity of Warren."
The alliance must submit a finalized work plan for the route 6 proposals to PennDOT by May 7.