Biking: Tax-funded grant benefits businesses

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Anyone who stays overnight in hotels in Fayette, Somerset or Westmoreland counties pays a 3 percent room tax per night that helps to fund a grant program for businesses in those communities.

The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, which administers the program, conducted a grant-writing workshop Thursday in Commissioners Hall at the Westmoreland County Community College.

Ron Virag, president and chief executive officer of the bureau, told 40 business owners that the grants are awarded to attract visitors from outside the region and encourage them to stay overnight.

Grants totaling $8.1 million have been awarded for capital improvements, marketing, operations and tourism education since the program began in 2002.

Because thousands of bicyclists annually use rail-trails in those counties and stay overnight at bed and breakfasts, guest houses, hostels and hotels, they might want to participate in the program by contacting the accommodations they have visited and suggest ways they can better serve the bicycling community.

For those who have stayed overnight along the Great Allegheny Passage, here is contact information for those accommodations and other businesses in eight trail towns in Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties.

Information: West Newton (www.bikewytc.org, www.dwni.org); Connellsville (www.regionaltrailcorp.org, www.downtownconnellsville.org); Ohiopyle (www.friendsofohiopyle.info); Confluence (www.visitconfluence.info); Rockwood (www.visitrockwood.info); Meyersdale (www.meyersdalemerchantsonline.com); Frostburg (www.visitFrostburg.com); and Cumberland (www.visitCumberland.org); Trail Town Program (www.trailtowns.org); Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau (www.laurelhighlands.org).

Keep 'em coming

There's still time to check the attic, basement and garage for "gently used" bikes for children aged 3 to 12 and donate them to The Salvation Army's annual "Bikes for Kids" program.

The program, a team effort with Kraynick's Bike Shop, ends Dec. 2.

If you have a "gently used" bike to donate, take it to Jerry Kraynick's shop at 5003 Penn Ave. in Garfield between the hours of 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day but Wednesday, and from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Kraynick and volunteer professional and amateur bike mechanics will tune-up each bike.

"We've already tuned-up more than 100 bikes and turned them over to the Salvation Army," Kraynick said, referring to himself and the bike mechanics who are also donating their time. "We're looking for more."

Leah Horcholic, The Salvation Army's Treasures for Children Coordinator, said the bikes will be distributed to children at its various Worship and Service Centers in time for Christmas.

Kraynick also is accepting donations of "gently used" adult bicycles that will be repaired and sold to support the program.

Information: www.salvationarmywpa.org; 412-446-1500 and 412-361-0888.

Brighten up

It's best to wear bright clothing any time you're on a bike, but especially on rail-trails during hunting season -- show your orange -- and on city streets in the evening.

Unless they're otherwise engaged in their electronic devices, motorists should be able to see you if there's a bright pulsing light mounted on your handlebars, a flashing red taillight fastened on the seat post and lights on the front and back of your helmet.

Bicyclists who ride in dark clothing with minimal or no lights -- and no helmets -- are a hazard to themselves and others.

Tunnel closing

If the 3,294-foot Big Savage Tunnel was on your list to ride through en route to or from western Maryland along the Great Allegheny Passage in southern Somerset County, you have until Dec. 6 to do it.

Brett Hollern, the county's trail coordinator, said the two-story high tunnel doors will be closed "by late morning" with the help of members of the Somerset County Rails to Trails Association and other volunteers.

The tunnel is closed each winter to protect it from ice damage that required constant maintenance when it was operated by the Western Maryland Railway.

Information: www.gaptrail.org.

Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.


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