On Jan. 13, 2005, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell designated a 400-mile corridor stretching through 11 northern counties as the Pennsylvania Route 6 Heritage Corridor. The area designated became the state’s 12th heritage park district. The governor encourages state residents and visitors to travel along what National Geographic has called “one of America’s most scenic drives.”
According to Governor Rendell, “The 400-mile-long corridor showcases many of the state’s historic treasures, recreational opportunities and scenic vistas”.
Former Connecticut reporter, Joe Hurley, walked across the length of Route 6 from Providencetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Long Beach, California. He kept a journal of his experiences along the way. He wrote, “I'll tell you this….Pennsylvanians are the friendliest people I've met so far. Quite a few have stopped to say hello or offer me water. I've been impressed with their pleasantness."
“Step into some of these towns and you can feel the slower pace. People have time for each other. People greeted me as I came into their towns. They beeped as they drove by. They walked up to offer encouragement. They offered water, sport drinks and food. It was as though I was part of the family”. (See Joe Hurley’s web site at www.route6walk.com for Joe’s journal entries from the trip}
To promote tourism across Route 6, the Route 6 Heritage Community Priogram was founded. Four grants totaling $185,000 were provided by the state to help enhance the area’s tourism potential and better promote its wealth of historic, natural and recreational resources. The friendliness that Joe Hurley writes about is the most important resource.
Smethport was chosen as the pilot for the Route 6 Heritage Community program, and received a small planning grant. The Heritage Communitiy Program assists Route 6 towns to develop a Heritage Tourism Work Plan by identifying heritage tourist sites, resources and themes; by developing a way to enhance and refine these resources; and by creating a plan to sustain the local heritage tourism while enhancing the local economy.
The pilot program was funded by a grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with the assistance of the Center for Rural PA. The completed program is expected to take 10 years to plan and implement in its various stages.
The Heritage Community program is a major undertaking aimed at positioning Smethport as a major tourist destination on PA Route 6.
The Route 6 Heritage Community Committee is parented by the Smethport Borough through the Smethport Area Chamber of Commerce. The Route 6 Committee consists of many persons representing every aspect of the community. After two town-wide meetings, a report was presented to the members of the Borough Council on December 6, 2004. The report details ways to improve Smethport as a tourist destination.
The initial findings of the report are below:
- Business Development
Develop more specialty shops – antiques, bookstore, co-ops
Develop a variety of stores and offer extended hours
Develop a full size motel with pool/restaurant and bar
- Cultural Development
Venues for crafts, nightclubs, comedy, dances, concerts and plays
- Education - Develop local awareness and hospitality training for the residents who will be in contact with tourists and visitors to the community
- Event Planning - Implement year-round activities
- Infrastructure and Community Development
Provide streetscape enhancements including benches, landscapes and streetlights
- Main Street Improvements
Building façade improvements
Parking area increase
Attract new businesses
- Park Improvements
Increase the facilities and activities within Hamlin Lake Park by adding a gazebo, walking trails, and/or an outdoor amphitheatre
Increase seasonal recreation
Erect entrance and way finding signs
- Tourism Development and Promotion
The Pennsylvania Route 6 Tourist Association (www.paroute6.com), and the Pennsylvania Route 6 Heritage Corporation serve as administrators of the program.