Saucon Rail Trail helped Le­high Val­ley busi­nesses

The Morning Call - - BUSINESS CYCLE - By An­thony Sala­m­one

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]

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