There are those who poo-poo tourism as an economic engine because the jobs created are generally lower-paying than those, say, in manufacturing or some other service industries.
But, those nay-sayers don't consider that every dollar spent in Warren County by a tourist is a dollar that is new to the local economy. This is not to say that we as a community should eschew opportunities in other areas and put all of our development efforts into the search for tourists.
However, in most instances the development of facilities and attractions that draw tourists also benefit those who already live here. Had a rough week at work? Take a hike or ride a bike.
Pennsylvania Kinzua Pathways, the group of forward-looking individuals which has already provided some worthwhile and interesting outdoor opportunities for tourists and residents alike, is embarking on a bold and expansive project to make the Allegheny National Forest a mecca for mountain bikers.
Topographically, the ANF presents an almost perfect potential venue for non-motorized trail riders. Its hillsides can be challenging, but not impossible. It's views can be spectacular, particularly on the southern slope of the Kinzua Arm of the Allegheny Reservoir, where PKP envisions a trail system of almost 55 miles.
One has only to look at the crowds during the snowy season at the Art Roscoe Cross-Country Ski Area in New York State's Allegany State Park, just to our north, to appreciate the draw of a planned and well-maintained specialty trail system. A mountain bike trail system established at Raystown Lake in central Pennsylvania is already drawing thousands of cyclists and generating more than a million dollars in additional tourist income.
PKP's idea is ambitious and will not be accomplished without a significant financial commitment; estimates are as much as $3 million. The trick will be to accomplish the project with government's blessing - it is Uncle Sam's property after all - but with a minimum of government money. That means that the great bulk of financing would come from public contributions.
While the proposal was launched less than a year ago, and a public appeal for support has yet to be announced, we hope to plant a seed in the collective imagination of a community to consider the possibilities that such a trail network offers.