Great Allegheny Passage Brings Unexpected Revitalization

<p>Hiking and cycling traffic on the Great Allegheny Passageway has brought jobs and prosperity to small towns along the route.</p>
July 30, 2008, 2pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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The town of West Newton, PA, about an hour south of Pittsburgh, is situated along the Great Allegheny Passageway, a trail that runs from Washington, DC into metropolitan Pittsburgh (and is slated to end at Pittsburgh's downtown Point State Park this year). The town has reaped an unexpected financial advantage from their location along the trail.

"'When you're a small town, you don't know if there is any economic future,' said George Sam of Downtown West Newton Inc., which has been working to revitalize the city's Main Street. 'But when you bring a trail in that brings people from all over the world, all of a sudden we have a direction. We can be more than we are, we have assets to share.'"

Unprecedented numbers of hikers, walkers and cyclists have been using the trail, many of them stopping along the way in towns like West Newton for a rest or snack. Restaurants like the Trailside convenience store, located "twenty steps from the trail," have been able to expand their operations and have helped pump money into local economies. Trailside, for example, employs twenty-seven people.

"An economic impact study conducted in 2007 determined the trail is generating $12.5 million in revenue and pouring more than $3 million in wages into trail-side communities." The communities along the trail have had some help from the Trail Town Program, a nonprofit initiative that works with towns along the trail to help position themselves to take advantage of trail traffic.

Thanks to Franny Ritchie

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Published on Sunday, July 27, 2008 in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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