College class project is seeking input on trails

University of Pittsburgh at Bradford students and their professor came to Kane Tuesday to gather input from Kane and Mt. Jewett residents on the role of trails in boosting the local economy.Dr. William "Billy" Schumann, assistant professor of anthropology at the college, spoke at the 100-minute forum at the Kane Area Community Center along with three students in his Applied Anthropology class. The students included Jenna Oyler, a senior from Kane, and senior Ryan Crowley and junior Mara Kloss of Bradford.The college sponsored the public forum along with the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau (ANFVB), the official tourism agency for McKean County.Schumann said the Kane forum is one of four scheduled to gather local input on the value of trails in McKean and Warren counties.As Schumann pointed out, the forum is part of a research project that is "entirely student-driven." "This is really their project," the professor said.In addition to obtaining opinions from local residents, the students plan to contact out-of-state communities that have been highly successful in boosting the economy through trail-users. These communities are in New York, Virginia and Maryland and are the hubs for several hiking and biking trails."We need to gauge public opinion," Oyler said in asking for input from the 35 area residents who attended the forum in Kane.Some of the feedback included:*The area lacks sufficient lodging during busy weekends.*There are few "bed and breakfast" operations in the area.*The area does not have a business that offers cabins.*The area does not have an "outfitter" to serve the needs of hikers.*There is no location to rent bicycles or snowmobiles.Linda Devlin, executive director of the ANFVB, said tourism "directly supports" 758 jobs in McKean County. She said tourism brings "new dollars" into the area.According to her figures, visitors in 2009 spent $113.6 million in McKean County.She said the county offers "nature-based recreation" and serves an area of 15 million within a six-hour drive.Devlin said trail use is a way to promote "high return and low impact tourism."See full article by purchasing the Oct. 19 edition of The Kane Republican.