Options for Trail Town outlined
SALTSBURG — An assessment presentation was held Wednesday for the Saltsburg community and business owners as part of the Trail Town initiative.
Trail Town, an organization that seeks to maximize the economic potential in communities with trails, shared its suggestions with borough council and business owners. Officials from the organization met with business owners and council members June 12 to do a walk-through and see what features and opportunities Saltsburg offered, as well as where improvements could be made, said William Prince, Trail Town manager.
According to Prince, the West Penn Trail, a 17-mile trail that runs between Saltsburg and Blairsville, is a new opportunity for businesses to bring in new customers and attract visitors of the trail into town.
“Trail Town qualities,” Prince said during a preliminary meeting in April, “include natural, historic qualities and a culture of hospitality.”
The Trail Town staff, during its tour in June, found multiple opportunities for change within the community, including adding more signage and parking, creating more business and lodging opportunities and updating designs within the community.
Currently, Prince said, signage in Saltsburg and on its trails is limited, confusing and cluttered. The community needs to “find a way to enhance or improve” the few signs that are already there, he said.
“We’re looking about developing a regional design for on-trail signage” that would be uniform throughout Trail Town communities and trails, Prince said.
In addition, the organization believes there are few options for parking for trail-goers, and the parking lots that exist can be improved and defined more.
New, niche businesses can bring trail users to town as well, and the Trail Town organization identified the building of a bike shop as one of the main goals for the community. As far as lodging goes, Prince said, “there are a few options here, but how can the lodging places build packages if you ride the trail or do other opportunities in the area?”
A bed and breakfast-type lodging facility, he said, is another opportunity for business.
Until Saltsburg is able to create a visitors’ center, Prince suggested that the borough building on Point Street be used temporarily to store brochures and be a resource to those entering the community.
“If someone wants to stop at an information kiosk or wants more information, they can at least stop at the borough building,” Prince said.
The next step in the initiative is to establish short- and long-term goals, a few of which the program has already set for Saltsburg.
Short-term goals include adding bike racks within the community and making basic improvements to parking areas, like pulling weeds that make parking spots hard to define.
Long-term goals include creating a bike shop, a comprehensive signage plan, increasing street safety and repairing sidewalks.
“I think a bike shop would be great for someone to come in and open up here,” said Saltsburg Borough council Vice President Kathy Muir. “I think it would be fantastic.”
Muir said borough council is looking into repairing sidewalks and is working with its grant writer, Leann Chaney, on possible funding for repairs.
“(The sidewalks) are a big issue in town,” Muir said. “There needs to be a huge Main Street project for that.”
In addition, she stated that a new playground with ample parking next to the West Penn Trail is in the works. Borough council decided at its Monday meeting to apply for a $250,000 grant for the playground through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
Saltsburg businesses and organizations now have a few opportunities with the Trail Town program, including becoming part of the Trail Town Network and applying for grants through the Trail Town program.
The Trail Town Network is an inclusive, free network for any organization and business within a trail town. Being certified as part of the Trail Town Network gives the community the opportunity to network with other businesses and communities within the network.
Members of the network are expected to attend at least one networking event per year, and the program will schedule periodic check-ins to see how the network is working for them.
Businesses can join the network by visiting TrailTowns.org. Upon application, Trail Town will schedule an assessment and provide an evaluation that will include recommendations for the business or organization.
Grants offered through the program include a bike rack matching grant for businesses and public spaces. According to the grant application, the cost per bike rack, installation fee included, is $75 to private businesses. This price will be matched by The Progress Fund of the Trail Town program to cover the full cost of each bike rack and installation. Racks will be donated at no cost for appropriate public spaces.
A business sign grant is also available — a cash match grant that will assist businesses in installing custom-made and locally produced signs that reflect the special nature of each participating business, according to the application. Grant assistance in this case will not exceed $750 per applicant or 50 percent of eligible expenses.
In addition, a larger grant, a community connection grant, for trail improvements is available. More information can be found at TrailTowns.org.
“Saltsburg is open to these grant opportunities with our program or within your community yourself,” Prince said.
“We want to keep the Trail Town action meetings moving,” he said. Prince expects to meet every other month or quarterly to stay up to date with what’s going on in the community.
Trail Town will now implement the priority projects through the grants offered and through other sources, Prince said.
“We’re introducing the business network throughout all of our communities now and hope that we get some on board now to become more friendly and sustainable.”