Williamsport brainstorms tourism ideas

December 09, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

WILLIAMSPORT -- What can Williamsport do to capitalize on the tourism business?

Does it need more bicycle racks? More ice cream parlors?

Those were some of the ideas kicked around at a Williamsport Town Council meeting Monday night as the town now finds itself with a link to Pittsburgh.

That link became possible when the C&O Canal Towpath, which runs past Williamsport, was connected to the Great Allegheny Passage, a 10-foot-wide trail built on old railroad corridors.

The Great Allegheny Passage runs from Cumberland, Md., to Pittsburgh. A woman who has helped towns along that trail take advantage of the tourism business along it appeared before Williamsport officials to help them do the same.


Cathy McCollom told Williamsport officials about how business has grown along the Great Allegheny Passage. She said towns along the C&O Canal can do assessments to determine how they can take advantage of tourism on the expanded trail.

People who have been flocking to the connected trails tend to be about 45 to 60 years old and have higher-than- average incomes, McCollom said.

"They're dropping money for restaurants. They're sometimes staying at bed and breakfasts," McCollom said.

Although no assessment work has started in Williamsport, Councilman Jeff Cline asked McCollom what Williamsport needs. She said there is a need for a business directory so trail users can easily see what types of businesses Williamsport offers.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II said he was excited about McCollom's ideas and said tourism is the way for the town to go as far as business development.

"Everyone wants to see the downtown and Williamsport flourish," McCleaf said.

In a related issue, council members were told that the town will receive a $14,736 state Urban Tree Canopy Grant to plant trees along Potomac Street in Williamsport.

Cline said the trees will not break up sidewalks to get into utility lines.

Cline said the tree-planting program will blend nicely with plans to capitalize on tourism from the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal.

"Everything is folding into one," Cline said.

Cline also suggested that camping facilities be added to Riverbottom Park as part of the effort to make the town more tourist-friendly.

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