By Keith Gushard
The concept of Titusville becoming a bicycle friendly town intrigues Eric Lohr.
“We’re always looking for opportunities,” Lohr said as he looked at proposed ideas to have Titusville become a “Trail Town.” Lohr and his wife own a building at 101 S. Martin St. in downtown Titusville at the east end of the business district.
How Titusville can become more bike friendly and how it would benefit businesses and residents were presented during an informal public information session Wednesday at the Titusville Town Square presented by Titusville Redevelopment Authority, Titusville Renaissance Inc., the Council on Greenways & Trails and consultants Mackin Engineering Co. and McCollom Development Strategies.
The groups have been working on the project since last fall and it is modeled on the “Trail Towns” effort launched by organizers of the Great Allegheny Passage, a bike trail that runs from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.
A Trail Town is defined by the consultants as a destination along a long-distance trail that people use to enjoy scenery, local goods and services and local heritage and that’s easily accessible by foot, bike or vehicle.
“This is your project,” Bob Genter of Mackin Engineering Co. said to the crowd of about 25 people on hand. “You have flat streets, great natural beauty and architecture and there’s outdoor recreation.”
Lohr was at Wednesday’s informal session to gather information.
“We have a tenant in the building,” Lohr said. “But we’ve talked about a coffee shop or a bike shop. It would be something directly trail-related.”
Titusville wants to have its two-mile Queen City Trail link with others, according to Debra Frawley, greenways coordinator for the Oil Region Alliance. The Queen City Trail connects to the Oil Creek State Park bike trail and from there other bike trails that will run all the way to Pittsburgh.
The long-range plan is to have a trail network running from Pittsburgh to Erie’s bayfront. The Pittsburgh-Erie network already is 60 percent complete, Frawley said. Groups are working to fill in the missing links. The Spartansburg to Corry link is expected to be completed within the next couple of years while the Titusville to Spartansburg link is expected to take several more years, Frawley said.
However, Frawley much of the center section of the Pittsburgh-Erie trail is in place with connections from Titusville south to Franklin, Oil City and Emlenton.
Titusville businessman Joe Carter, a former chairman of the Titusville Redevelopment Authority and a board member of the Chamber of Commerce, said the project is important to the community.
“Titusville only survives if we keep and maintain our tax base,” said Carter. “We have to use a mix of different things to grow that tax base.”
“Tourism is a big part of it since we sell quality of life here,” he continued. “We have the streams, the hills, the bike trails. It brings thousands of people here a year.”
Hard numbers bear out Carter’s remarks, according to Frawley.
A study of the Oil Creek State Park bike trail in 2006 found 160,000 people used the trail, Frawley said. That study, to be updated later this year, used infrared counters on the trail and took into account persons doubling-back on the trail, she said.
“We think it will grow,” Frawley said of the numbers. “We could be a hub since we’re halfway between Erie and Pittsburgh and we’re halfway between Chicago and New York.”
Frawley said most people who are trail users are in higher income and education brackets and are in the 40 to 60 age bracket.
Having more people visit the Titusville area would be a benefit, according to city officials.
“Spartansburg has a portion of the trail and already has seen the economic benefit in its shops and restaurants,” Titusville Councilman Jay Reese said. “The economic benefit would only be inflated here.”
“I think it will benefit the town by increasing business and the need for new businesses,” said Titusville City Manager Larry Manross.
The project also would benefit tourism for Crawford County, according to Francis Weiderspahn, chairman of Crawford County commissioners.
“People will stay in hotels and bed and breakfasts so we’ll get bed tax revenue that’s used for tourism,” said Weiderspahn.
You can help
Those interested in volunteering to work on the Titusville Trail Town project are asked to contact either Titusville Redevelopment Authority at (814) 827-3668; Larry Manross, Titusville’s city manager at (814) 827-5300; or Debra Frawley, greenways coordinator for Council on Greenways & Trails at (814) 677-3152 Ext. 116.