Laurel Highlands CLI Newsletter

Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative Newsletter

Laurel Highlands e-blast update Vol. 3 No. 3



Mini-Grant program announced at Summit

            Announcement of a new mini-grant program for the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative (CLI) was a highlight i n the successful Laurel Highlands Summit help April 4 at the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College.

The summit attracted 180 people who learned about economic benefits, how to develop trails and better conserve our natural resources, and how to build capacity in small local organizations.

 The economic benefits of tourism, recreation, conservation and active living were emphasized throughout the day to help participants understand and be able to articulate the fact that funding for these efforts is not just a “feel-good” thing but in fact is an investment with a financial payback for communities and the state.




Mini-Grant deadline, other details

             April 21 is the deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent to receive a Laurel Highlands mini-grant. A total of $50,000 is available in the program, which will provide small grants of $1,500 to $15,000 to help local governments, non-profits and state park friends’ groups to implement projects that support tourism, recreational or conservation in the priority landscapes of the CLI (Laurel Ridge, Chestnut Ridge, Great Allegheny Passage and the Stonycreek River and Johnstown area).  All grants will require a cash match.

            The program is being administered by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor and the National Road Heritage Corridor, who of the state heritage areas that are central partners in the CLI effort.

            Organizations interested in applying must submit the letter of intent by April 21 to the Lincoln Highway (e-mail if they are north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and to the National Road (e-mail if they are south of the Turnpike.  Invitations to submit the full application will be provided on May 10 and full applications will be due May 31 with notification of awards on June 17.




Keynote highlights beneifts of open space 

In the keynote presentation, Tood Poole, president of 4ward Planning, noted several things that bode well for tourism in the Laurel Highlands.  For instance, people are looking for one-tank vacations and spending more on “experiences” rather than material purchases, and 4.9 million people live within three hours.  These visitors spend money, creating direct, indirect and induced economic benefits for the region.

However, most of the benefits of open space and parks do not necessarily show up as a direct bottom line.  Poole outlined the benefits in four categorites.

  • Citizens can enjoy recreational amenities, mental and physical health, improved air and water Quality, and cultural amenities.
  • Businesses, especially those involved with visitors, receive increased revenues, while all businesses in the region enjoy improved employee recruitment and improved employee retention.
  • Property owners have increased property value, better stormwater management and the enhanced aesthetic value of the scenery.
  • Governments benefit from low cost ecosystem services, increased taxable values, and improved business retention and attraction.




Summit feedback and powerpoints 

The feedback received from a survey of Summit participants also showed how successful it was. Nearly 90 percent of participants rated the program excellent or good, while less than 10 percent rated it fair.

Several excellent comments were provided on Poole’s keynote address. The Powerpoint from his presentation and a powerpoint on about 40 studies or reports on economic benefits of tourism, recreation, conservation and active lifestyles are available on the Laurel Highlands CLI web site at www.pecpa.or/Laurel_Highlands.

The highest rated breakout sessions were community-based trail development, telling your trail’s story, Marcellus shale conservation strategies, capacity-building and using social media and smart-phone apps.




CLI events coming up

The Stonycreek Rendezvous on May 13-15 will feature the first official water release through the release valve installed in Quemahoning Dam. The full weekend agenda of races, the whitewater rodeo, music, gear, food, etc. is available at

 The Stonycreek valve will be dedicated at a program about noon May 13, and later that day, several local conservation organizations will hold the third Laurel Highlands Green Drinks event starting at 6 p.m. at Greenhouse Park, the location where many of the whitewater boaters camp. Green Drinks offers an opportunity for social networking in an informal atmosphere encouraging support for recreation, conservation and related efforts.

A new Amtrak passenger-rail station will be dedicated in Connellsville at 10 a.m. April 29. Officials from Amtrak, DCNR and local government will join tourism-development advocates to highlight the potential to use passenger train service to access the Great Allegheny Passage and other area recreational and heritage assets.

The 17th annual Yough River Trail Race will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 23, in Connellsville, featuring 5K walks and runs, and 10K and 10-mile runs. The event benefits the Yough River Trail Council, which supports a section of the Great Allegheny Passage. Information is at

 The Rails to Trails Conservancy’s 9th annual Greenways Sojourn will pass through the Laurel Highlands and feature parts of the developing Pennsylvania Mainline Canal Greenway on July 19-24. Register now to explore the Path of the Flood, Ghost Town, Hoodlebug, West Penn, Roaring Run and Westmoreland Heritage Trails from just north of Johnstown through part of the Conemaugh River corridor and beyond. For information and to register:



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