Imagine you’re a visitor with a day or two to burn in Washington County. You wouldn’t mind picking up a brochure or talking to someone to find out details about the Meadows Racetrack & Casino, the covered bridges or some other interesting sites to see and things to do.
For 14 years, visitors could wander in to the office of the county’s tourism promotion agency and get all the information they needed when it was in the beautifully restored station once used by the B&O Railroad in downtown Washington. It not only gave tourists a decent first impression of the community, but it was also blessedly easy to find – all you needed to do was venture to the railroad tracks on South Main Street, look for the station, and there you were.
The tourism promotion agency was the only tenant of the structure, following a $1.1 million restoration in 1999. Last week, however, the tourism agency pulled up stakes from the building, one of the most striking in downtown Washington, and migrated to Southpointe. The move happened as a result of the merger between the agency with the Chamber of Commerce, the latter of which had been working out of the Washington Trust Building until it also moved to the shared office of the two organizations at 375 Southpointe Boulevard.
We’ll concede that a credible argument could be made about moving the Chamber of Commerce out of the county seat to Southpointe – much of the county’s newest, and most bustling business activity is centered in Washington’s northern reaches, whether it’s the companies making a claim in the Marcellus Shale that are moving in to Southpointe, or the shiny enterprises cropping up along Route 19 in North Strabane or Peters townships. But moving the tourism promotion agency to Southpointe is, we believe, misbegotten.
If someone who is unfamiliar with the county is trying to find the office, they’ll now have to navigate a maze of office buildings, none of which are as easily identifiable as the old B&O station. And the station was a tangible link to the area’s storied past, which is a selling point for tourists. Now, the tourism office is in an office building that is, let’s face it, fairly anonymous.
We hope a new viable tenant moves in to the old railroad station quickly. But this is something, to use the well-worn phrase, that was not broken and did not need to be fixed.