Now that the Great Allegheny Passage is completed from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., what kind of large off-the-trail capital projects would draw more people to the towns along the 150-mile-long passage and entice them to extend their visits?
That will be the focus of a Trail Regions Investment Roundtable meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Meyersdale Fire Department in Somerset County.
The gathering, hosted by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the Trail Town Program, is open to the public.
The roundtable wants to hear from local residents and business owners interested in developing and expanding the "tourism industry" along the passage.
The meeting, moderated by Somerset Trust Company president G. Henry Cook, also will welcome the comments of more than 300 bicyclists who will be in town that evening. They are participating in the conservancy's 11th Annual Greenway Sojourn and are en route from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.
"It is the hope of organizers that the input of this large and experienced group of trail visitors from across America [25 states] will inform the local discussion about what can be done to bring more people to the region and ride the trail and stay in local communities," said Tom Sexton, director of the conservancy's Northeast Region Office.
Sexton also said the cyclists "are people that have plenty of experience with what other trail communities have been able to do, and what has worked in attracting visitors and their dollars."
He said the proposed Amtrak station in Rockwood is an example of a major project he hopes the roundtable will discuss. It would require "large-scale federal investment ... that would increase access to the trail and the communities along it," he said.
It also would require the support of Rockwood officials who have concerns about the cost of maintaining the station.
Sexton said other examples of off-the-passage improvements include "better pathways or off-road connections between the trail and local main streets or to other regional attractions or trail systems."
Regional attractions offered to the sojourners on their day off the trail Tuesday include Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, both only a few miles from the bike trailhead in Ohiopyle, or a raft trip on the Youghiogheny River between Confluence and Ohiopyle or between Ohiopyle and Bruner Run. The passage parallels the Youghiogheny River from Confluence to McKeesport.
"Those of us who have made the life choice to live in the Laurel Highlands know its incredible qualities, its natural beauty and the quality of the people," Cook said in a statement.
"The Great Allegheny Passage provides a powerful way for others to experience what we know. Enhancing that experience will bring financial reward to the region as well as enhancing our own quality of life."
What does it take to build a one-of-a-kind adaptive bicycle for children with disabilities that provides them a type of mobility and freedom they might not otherwise experience?
Variety of Pittsburgh will show what's involved from noon to 5 p.m. June 29 at the Carnegie Science Center's Bikes Plaza along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail on the North Shore.
Bike recipients and therapists will be on hand to discuss their roles in the bike-building process.
Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.