More points on park
I enjoyed the well-written commentary in the Dec. 5 issue about Washington Park — and I both agree and disagree with some of the arguments of the writer.
That is, with thousands of wild acres surrounding the town and the under-utilization of most of them, as well as the declining economic prospects of Warren, it seems to me that opportunities to attract tourists should be one of the areas top priorities. When walking at Washington Park, I climb along the old oil roads to make a return loop along the access road, so signage and minor maintenance could provide visitors with an easy hike to compliment their visit. Because there are so many logging and oil and gas roads in the forest on which to ride, it seems redundant to build any more bike trails except near the already developed Jakes Rocks area. I agree that a Frisbee golf course would be better placed at Betts or elsewhere, as would a zip line somewhere else on the mountain. Yet both are valid ideas to try to attract more visitors.
As the writer notes, the gas wells and their attendant odors are noticeable when first visiting Warren, but the access roads open up parts of the mountains that one cannot easily walk or bike to otherwise. As both an elderly hiker and bicyclist, arguments that electric bikes are dangerous seem like an exaggeration to me. I often walk on the bike and motorcycle trails and have never felt threatened by anything or anyone. Both bicyclists and motorcyclists are extremely respectful of my presence, and I of theirs, which means that I respectfully step off the trail to let them pass, and they slow down and wave at me as they proceed. At any rate, electric bikes are low powered and most have a limiting speed of 20 mph — a pace rarely attained except on smooth level ground or going downhill. Restricting the growing popularity of electric bikes seems like it would be both unnecessary and counterproductive when trying to attract outdoor enthusiasts. The Allegheny livery and brewery in downtown seem to be successful, so anything that appeals to active people should be the focus of future investments.
I have wondered if the cheap real estate and wonderful summer climate in Warren would appeal to snowbirds who go south in winter or sunbirds who come north to escape the heat, so perhaps targeting that demographic nationwide would attract new people and money and diversity. Maybe those same people would establish enduring connections to communities throughout the country?
I have also wondered if an arrangement with the state could allow tours of the North Warren hospital complex to attract visitors. The long history there would interest a lot of people as would the amazing architecture. It may be hard to attract new industry to this isolated area, but hopefully there are other ways to kindle interest.