Lake project deserves serious consideration

To the editor:

The Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau has been and will continue to be involved in and supportive of the process that the Terrace Mountain Lodge and Hawn’s Bridge Marina development concept must go through to determine its feasibility. The project is being conceived by Mr. Rod Roberts, who owns nearly 2,000 acres of private land in Union and Todd Townships, Huntingdon County. The bureau was similarly involved in the concept stage of the Shaner Square/Fairfield Inn development in Smithfield Township which came to fruition, and the Upper Corners development in Penn Township which did not.

The bureau’s mission is the guiding principle which engages its staff and board in these processes.

The mission of the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau is to develop and implement strategic marketing initiatives which will result in increased visitor spending in the Raystown Lake Region of the Alleghenies.

The organization is customer service oriented, with the visitor as primary client.

The bureau will engage in tourism related projects designed to be beneficial to the visitor, the region and the members it serves.

The agency will work in a cooperative manner with Pennsylvania visitor bureaus, the Alleghenies Tourism Council, other local and regional organizations involved in economic development, and the Pennsylvania Office of Travel and Tourism as partners in achieving Pennsylvania tourism and economic development goals.

Does this project have the potential to increase visitor spending? Yes. A resort project of this scale should without doubt increase visitor spending in Huntingdon County.

Is this project something current and potential visitors (the bureau’s primary clients) demand? Determining the answer to that question is part of the process that the developer must go through before making the investment. A 3-4 star resort/hotel is not something currently in Huntingdon County’s business mix, so if the demand is there, it is not being served. Both of the existing marinas on Raystown Lake have waiting lists for seasonal slips and have had conversations with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials about permission to expand. That proves that the consumer demand is there for more boat slips. Determining whether or not the lake can safely handle more boat slips is part of the process within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The second bullet in the mission statement means the bureau needs to be engaged to ensure that tourism related projects are beneficial to the visitor, the region and our members. The fact that Mr. Roberts already owns more than 1,000 acres of private land, means that the largest part of this project could happen even without developing on the federal land. It is the responsibility of the bureau’s staff and board per its mission to make it the best project possible for the region. That includes making sure that all of the proper protocols are followed, including environmental impact studies, public input, working with local governments, obtaining planning commission approvals, etc. The corps process and the planning commission process both will have to consider the impact to the Biological Diversity Area and Landscape Conservation Area designations before permitting any development.

The last bullet in the bureau’s mission statement means that it cannot look past the potential job creation of this project, as Huntingdon County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. Any company willing to make an investment of this magnitude in our county that has the potential to bring more than 100 new jobs deserves the attention and assistance of the county’s economic development agency, and by extension when it is tourism related, its tourism promotion agency.

Matthew Price

Executive Director,

Huntingdon County

Visitors Bureau