August 23, 2012

AAA and the U.S. Travel Association define a leisure traveler as “one person, traveling 50 miles one way or more, from home and/or overnight, for the purpose of leisure.”

Given that definition, it’s no surprise that transportation is one of the dominant sectors in tourism spending. After all, you have to travel from Point A to Point B to fit the profile.

And that distance creates a big profile.

Visitors spent $583 million in Washington County in 2010, with the transportation sector leading the way, contributing $150.6 million, or 25.8 percent, of the total.

Tourism also creates and sustains more than 5,000 jobs in the county, generates $278.2 million in wages, and accounts for $122.3 million in tax revenue. It’s no stretch to state that reliable, affordable, safe transportation is key to tourism and overall economic development, and you can’t talk about transportation without considering clean, safe, and affordable energy sources to fuel our need to travel. Therefore, developments in tourism, transportation and energy play a big part in the overall prosperity of our county.

Transportation and visitors traveling to Washington County are nothing new, of course.

People have been making their way on foot and now, by car and bus, to Avella and the western part of the county for at least 16,000 years.

What is now known as the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village began in 1955 when Albert Miller poked around a groundhog hole on the family farm and found evidence of Indian artifacts. Research now tells us that Native American hunting parties used the creek bed and rockshelter as a camp site while tracking and hunting huge herds of elk, bison and deer.

Fast forward 55 years and visitors to Meadowcroft today view an active archaeological dig evidencing 16,000 years of human existence, the oldest documented site in North America. In addition to ancient history at the rockshelter, visitors to Meadowcroft can also step back in time to experience rural life over 150 years ago. Meadowcroft Village carefully recreates all of the charming qualities of an Upper Ohio Valley village from mid-19th century. A 16th-century Indian Village allows visitors to travel 400 years into the past and re-live what life was like for the Eastern Woodland Indians. Meadowcroft is a unique part of the heritage of Washington County, and welcomes thousands of 21st century travelers every year.

Transportation is prominently featured at another Washington County tourism favorite, as visitors are transported to a different era as they “Take A Ride Into the Past” at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2013

At the museum, visitors ride into the past on one of more than 30 restored and antique trolleys, tour the trolley display building and restoration shop, and participate in the story of the golden age of trolley service in Western Pennsylvania at the Visitor Education Center.

The museum conducts numerous special events throughout the year to the delight of visitors of all ages, and provides transportation to the Washington County Fair. Its “Green Initiative” also recently installed solar panels to provide partial power to the complex, and is the only solar-powered trolley museum in the world.

Transportation and tourism have been part of Washington County for a long time. So the next time you have got some leisure time, pack up your hunting party, dig into some history, and take a trip into the past. Either by car, boat, trolley or by foot, you have got your choice of transportation, and the energy to get you there.

Travel safely.J.R. Shaw is executive director of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency.



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