Saucon Rail Trail helped Lehigh Valley businesses
After officials opened portions of the Saucon Rail Trail along Water Street Park in 2011, Hellertown business owner Steve LaBrake noticed changes.
Some were expected: His Saucon Valley Bikes store on Main Street saw a 30% increase in sales during the year after the trail opened, and business has remained healthy since, he said.
He also began noticing people were buying baskets for his bikes so they could patronize the borough farmers market, and that restaurants and other local retail merchants were also reaping benefits.
About 27 businesses have opened in Hellertown since 2011, Borough Manager Cathy Hartranft said, while only a handful merchants closed during the period.
“We have all the traffic and the trucks,” Hartranft said Tuesday while speaking in front of LaBrake’s shop, amid the din from cars, motorcycles and tractor-trailers. “This is a nice addition.”
“It’s cool to see what the rail trail has done for the community,” LaBrake said.
LaBrake and Hartranft joined others at the bike store, where local officials announced a grant program that seeks to provide more money to improve the area’s trails and outdoor areas.
The Lehigh Valley Green Retail Program enables shoppers to contribute dollars toward the trails, with the money going into a mini-grant handled by the Lehigh Valley Greenways Conservation Landscape, said Robert Neitz, manager of Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center in Bushkill Township. Donations will be matched dollar for dollar by local organizations to build and maintain local trails and parks, according to officials. Mini-grants have ranged from $1,000 to $10,000, doubled with matching funds, officials said.
“It’s a circular relationship,” Neitz said. “We help build trails, users are patronizing the trails, and their donations help support the trails.”
Lehigh Valley Greenways is a public-private partnership led by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. It also involves 25 state, regional and local groups.
Cindy Adams Dunn, the DCNR secretary, said Pennsylvania ranks fifth in terms of dollars committed to outdoors. Outdoor recreation generates $29.1 billion in consumer spending, $8.6 billion in wages and salaries, and $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to state data. It also sustains 251,000 jobs.
“We’ve invested in parks and trail infrastructure,” said Dunn, noting the state is celebrating “Trails Month” in September. “Here in the Lehigh Valley ... we have been able to build a trail network that is getting better and better every year.”
Other businesses signed up in Green Retail Program are Curt’s Cyclery of Nazareth; Easton Outdoor Company and Genesis Bicycles, both of Easton; Cutters Bike Shop in Bethlehem; and Emmaus Run Inn.
Morning Call reporter Anthony Salamone can be reached at 610-820-6694 or asalam[email protected]