Greenway and Open Space Coordinator Hired

Back to Happenings

The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) defines a greenway as a corridor of open space. Some greenways are recreational corridors, such as a river corridor or bike trail, while others are preserved for ecological purposes such as storm water management. Greenways differ in their location and function, but overall, a greenway will protect natural, cultural, and scenic resources, provide recreational benefits, enhance natural beauty and quality of life in neighborhoods and communities, and stimulate economic development opportunities.

Throughout 2007, organizations associated with trail and open space planning, development and operation throughout the Oil Heritage Region identified the need for a staff person to assist in the coordination of greenway and trail work as well as serve as a central point of contact and to provide professional technical assistance. A partnership was formed by two counties and thirteen other municipalities and organizations, and a Coordinator was hired in July to serve the area of the Oil Heritage Region and areas with contiguous greenways both to the north and to the south. A steering committee serves as the managing entity of the organization with one representative from each of the partners. The goals of this partnership are to maintain and operate the premier greenways system throughout this region and to plan and implement projects that create and build on the groundwork for future acquisition, development and management of greenways and open space, natural areas, rails-to-trails, and river/watershed corridors. Technical assistance will be given to meet statewide and local needs and for educating the public on recreation and conservation opportunities. Debra Frawley was hired as the Greenways and Open Space Coordinator and can be contacted at 814-432-4476 Extension 121. Greenways questions can be sent to greenways@ficda.org and trail questions can be directed to avta@ficda.org. Visit www.ficda.org/greenways.html.

The Steering Committee will work directly with affiliated organizations such as local municipalities, trail and conservation organizations, governmental agencies, private businesses, and non-profits to help them fulfill their objectives as related to greenways and open space. These organizations will provide direct input back to the Committee concerning their interests as well. The Greenways and Open Space Coordinator can focus attention on bringing the appropriate agencies and nonprofit organizations to the table, interfacing with municipal officials and providing technical assistance where needed. DCNR is providing funding for the salary of the Coordinator in descending amounts over a four year period. Crawford County is serving as grant recipient of these funds. The member organizations of the Steering Committee are contributing funding and support for benefits and operating costs. The Franklin Industrial and Commercial Development Authority has donated office space and resources for the Coordinator. By the fifth year the position must be self-funded.

The organizations that currently form the Steering Committee are:

Allegheny Valley Conservancy
Allegheny Valley Trails Association
City of Franklin
City of Oil City
City of Titusville
Clear Lake Authority
Cornplanter Township
Cranberry Township
  Crawford County
Emlenton Borough
Foxburg Borough
Franklin Industrial & Commercial Dev. Authority
Friends of Oil Creek State Park
Oil Creek State Park
Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism
Venango County

This region has a network of multi-purpose recreational trails, used as models in other regions, of 60+ miles of completed asphalt trail with an additional 15+ miles in the planning or construction stage. Soon one will be able to travel from Titusville in Crawford County, through Venango County, to Parker in Armstrong County non-stop on the trail system. Many different entities own and operate the trail system in our area including non-profit and volunteer groups and municipalities. A Regional Greenways and Open Space Plan for eight northwestern Pennsylvania Counties is nearing completion. It will include recommendations for planning and implementing strategies for both recreational trails and conservation of ecological greenways.

When asked about the most important functions of greenways, those surveyed throughout Pennsylvania ranked protection of natural resources and wildlife habitat as the two most important functions of greenways, followed by open space protection and non-motorized recreation. Greenways also support tourism. Pennsylvania’s second largest industry, tourism, supports thousands of jobs and attracts visitors of all types—among them hikers, canoeists, hunters, fishermen, bicyclists, and history buffs. According to the Office of Travel and Tourism, outdoor recreation is a prime motivating factor for one-fifth of all visitors to Pennsylvania—translating to $4.03 billion in tourism dollars documented for 1997.

Locally, a 2006 trail utilization study showed that an estimated 160,792 users frequented the trail system throughout the year, creating an estimated overall economic impact of $4.31 million dollars. Seventy seven percent of the trail users surveyed traveled from other areas to use our trails. That includes those that traveled from other states including Ohio, New York and Florida. Many of these trail users stay overnight, dine in the local restaurants and shop in local stores. Non-local trail users spend an average of $32.93 per person per day or $88.49 per group, while local users spend a daily average of $3.71 per person or $10.91 per group.

Hunters, fishermen, bird watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts know the wealth of natural resources, open space and greenways of this area. Sections of the Allegheny River have been designated in the national Wild and Scenic River program from Kinzua Dam to Emlenton Borough. Wildlife abounds. Pennsylvania has more stream miles than any other state except Alaska. Resource protection of ecological functions of these resources will ensure that this area continues to be a natural wonder.

The new organization of the Greenways and Open Space Steering Committee has been created to coordinate the greenways and open space in the Oil Region and neighboring communities. The organization serves for the specific purpose of coordinating the planning, development, management, and maintenance of trails, greenways, and/or open space. As additional stakeholders are identified, they will be asked to serve on the Committee as well.