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Potter County Tourist & Recreation Work Group Moves Forward

April 2nd, 2021

Potter County Tourist & Recreation Work Group held its monthly meeting on March 29. The panel is part of the “Revitalize Potter County” campaign, a mission to reverse the population loss and rising median age in the county while adapting to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. For more information or to volunteer, contact Potter County Planning/GIS Director Will Hunt at whunt@pottercountypa.net.

Attendees: Curt Weinhold, Chris Nicholas, Ben Stone, Colleen Hanson, Steve Green, Josh Roth, John Snyder, Lori Szymanik, Candace Hillyard, Emily Shosh. County Attendees: Will Hunt, Ellen Russell, Paul Heimel, Barry Hayman.

Old Business

  • Josh Roth reported that the Pa. Lumber Museum has scheduled a partial reopening for Friday, April 30.
  • Ben Stone reported that the state will soon issue its Solicitation of Proposals for the development of Denton Hill State Park and is looking forward to working on the design process with the chosen vendor/partner/operator. Paul Heimel added that a state lawmaker’s call for the state to sell the park to a private owner has apparently been rejected.
  • Members held a detailed discussion of the “Potter County Recreation & Events” concept. Colleen Hanson said Visit Potter-Tioga would work with the group to promote/market events and attractions in Potter County. She also suggested that the process be deliberate during the COVID-pandemic, since there are currently many uncertainties. Josh Roth noted that Potter County Visitors Assn. maintains its certified non-profit status. He suggested the new group operate under that legal structure. Josh also emphasized that dedicated, sustaining leadership will be needed if a new organization is formed. Will Hunt suggested that the Tourist & Recreation Work Group develop a strategic plan to set the framework for the new entity.

Visit Potter-Tioga Overview/Update

Colleen Hanson said VPT has launched its early-spring promotional campaign. With a reluctance by some prospective tourists to travel during the pandemic, the agency is focused on helping visitors plan upcoming trips for when conditions are safer. Colleen also noted that, in response to the rising interest in ATV riding, VPT is developing a “Know Before You Go” video that shows trails and roads open to ATV riding, while emphasizing safety and courtesy. She also noted that there is rising interest in bicycle routes and trails in the two-county region.

God’s Country Market Village & Farmers Market

Ellen Russell reported on results of public opinion polling, with about 90 percent of respondents favoring the concept. Some 18 expressed interest in becoming vendors. Funding options continue to be investigated with a ballpark figure of $80,000 needed to make the village a reality. DCNR funds may be available for site improvements. Potter County Maintenance Department could also perform some of the site work.

General Discussion

‘Bike-Friendly Potter County’. Members discussed potential strategies for Potter County to capitalize on the growing popularity of mountain biking. Candace Hillyard said the Pa. Route 6 Alliance has been working on promotion of bicycle routes along the Rt. 6 corridor and related initiatives. Paul Heimel noted that the Cameron County Chamber of Commerce has been holding a successful mountain bike race, the Sinnemahone Gravel. Chris Nicholas pointed out that the Bureau of Forestry offers the Billy Lewis Area Trail System for bicyclists and has a map of the routes available. Lori Szymanik noted that the Susquehannock Trail Club is opposed to proposals to open the Susquehannock Trail System to bicycles.

Dark Skies. Members discussed Mike Aucott’s suggestion that the county and/or local governments regulate outdoor lighting to reduce light pollution and protect the astronomy/night-sky viewing that has become very popular in Potter County. John Snyder expressed strong support for the concept, citing the economic development potential that is already being realized through the growing popularity of the International Dark Sky Preserve at Cherry Springs State Park and the legacy we will leave.

Sub-Committee Options

ATV Riding. After some discussion, this sub-committee will no longer be pursued by our group. We support the VPT strategy. Those with an interest in the topic can work with townships/boroughs and Pa. DCNR on their advocacy.

Arts/Culture. Emily Shosh summarized her review of the Nature-Based Placemaking concept. Members agreed that its foundation of connecting public spaces with environmental conservation, and linking local culture/history with recreation, has potential to benefit Potter County. The strategies could be explored without making a formal commitment to Nature-Based Placemaking or other formal programs. Paul Heimel said a blueprint for the Arts & Culture Sub-Committee will be presented at the April 26 meeting.

Other potential sub-committees.

  • Hospitality/Lodging. John Snyder reported that hospitality training is available for business owners and/or employees in the restaurant and lodging industries. Market research confirms the importance of visitors having a positive experience with hospitality providers.
  • Bicycling (see above).
  • Dark Skies (see above).
  • Implementation of tourist/recreation strategies contained in the Potter County Comprehensive Plan 2020-29, working with Potter County Planning Commission and Potter County Commissioners.
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