Trails and elk bring economic, recreation, tourism opportunities
LOCK HAVEN — The nature of recreation is changing. And that’s a major opportunity for Clinton County, since the bulk of our land is designated specifically for that purpose.
“In the past, Clinton County’s economy was heavily bolstered by hunting and fishing,” says Clinton County Economic Partnership Chamber/Tourism Director Julie Brennan. “While those two sports continue to be important to the area and our economy, recreational pursuits are shifting and other endeavors have emerged and are bringing many people to Clinton County.
“Trails and trail racing have become important to the County’s economy,” says Brennan. “For example, the upcoming Hyner View Trail Challenge on April 18 — Clinton County’s largest race — is sold out. The race is capped at 1,400 people, with more than 600 people on a waiting list. Race director Craig Fleming of the PA Trail Dogs running group recently shared that participants are coming from 33 states, plus Canada and Great Britain. Only 128 registrants are from Clinton County. That’s a telling tale – Clinton County is truly a destination for the dozen trail challenges held in the area annually.”
“If you think these events don’t have an impact, talk to people who own lodging establishments, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, clubs, church groups and fire companies,” adds Brennan. “These are some of the businesses and organizations who not only support, but benefit from these events.”
Brennan says interest in trails continues to grow.
“Our office talks with many people as we promote Clinton County at outdoor and travel shows, and we answer requests daily for information on our area. We see a lot of interest in walking, hiking and bicycling trails,” says Brennan. “The County’s development of the new Bald Eagle Valley Trail is critically important – it puts us on the map, so to speak, to draw people to the area to walk, hike and bike. That the Bald Eagle Valley Trail will one day connect with the heavily-used Pine Creek Rail-Trail will expose so many more people to our area.”
Brennan says one of the area’s fastest growing attractions is ATV trails. The Partnership is a key stakeholder in the Northcentral PA ATV Initiative, established five years ago by the Central Mountains ATV Association to ‘connect communities and four state ATV trails to boost the economy through increased tourism.’
“The proposed trail system initially was to encompass about 800 miles, but we’ve exceeded that,” notes Brennan. “Today, the Initiative has grown to include some 1,700 proposed miles, with close to 1,000 ridable miles already available.”
CMATVA has spurred that growth, says Brennan, noting that the Association hosts two group rides a month that draw people to the area. The Association has also enlisted support from municipalities, who have passed ordinances to allow ATVs to travel on township and borough roads.
“These municipalities have seen the benefit to allowing ATV riders to come in and get gas, eat at local restaurants, and shop at local shops. The Cross Fork area is just one example we can point to, to show the positive economic impact ATV tourism can have on a community.”
“There’s still much work to be done,” says Brennan of the overall ATV Initiative, “but some great progress has been made. We’re seeing increased numbers of ATV owners traveling to the area to ride, and we also see more camp owners who have ATVs at their camps.”
According to Brennan, there are more than 2,000 camps in Clinton County, the bulk of which are privately owned (some 500 camps are leased from the state).
“We have been communicating with camp owners, making them aware of local events and activities in an effort to get them to camp more often. Instead of just a hunting crew, many are now bringing family members to camp, including grandchildren, to get away and enjoy the outdoors.”
Wildlife watching continues to be a popular pastime for Clinton Countians and visitors, and Brennan says a growing herd of wild elk that have settled in the Kettle Creek area is generating attention.
“Camp owners in northwest Clinton County are loving the fact that they can see elk out their back door,” says Brennan, adding that campers at Kettle Creek State Park and private campgrounds like Quiet Oaks Campground are also likely to see elk roaming the area. “We are talking with various interests, including the state, about ways to best manage the herd that includes allowing visitors to view this majestic animal.”
“We have some fantastic opportunities ahead. We need to work together to realize those opportunities while keeping our natural assets strong so they can be enjoyed by everyone – from wildlife watchers to ATV riders,” stresses Brennan. “I believe that’s possible, and, frankly, with more than half of the land in Clinton County owned by the state (private property owners are in the minority yet are responsible for paying the bulk of local taxes), our economy depends on it.”