The Wolf administration has launched the Lehigh Valley Green Retail Program, a partnership between Valley retailers and the state departments of Conservation and Natural Resources and Community and Economic Development, designed to promote outdoor recreation.
Retailers who participate in the program agree to accept donations from customers that will support mini-grants for local trails and . The mini-grants will be awarded yearly to fund such things as urban forestry initiatives, trail design, signage and promotional publications.
Outdoor recreation generates about $29.1 billion in consumer spending, $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue, $8.6 billion in wages and salaries, and sustains 251,000 direct Pennsylvania jobs, according to the Pennsylvania DCNR.
“Pennsylvania is home to some of the greatest trails in the country,” said DCED Secretary Carrie Fischer Lepore during a press conference at Saucon Valley Bikes in Hellertown, a participant in the program. “Dollars follow these trails into our communities supporting jobs, boosting local businesses, and enhancing our overall quality of life.”
Steve LaBrake, owner of Saucon Valley Bikes, said his sales increased 30 percent after the Saucon Rail Trail opened in 2011.
“We had to bring mechanics in from other bike shops just to keep up with the huge influx of business from the trail coming into town,” he said. “And it wasn’t just our business, I saw bike racks going up in front of the restaurants…”
In addition to bikes, LaBrake said he has been selling more bike baskets, which cyclists use to carry their purchases from the local farmers’ market and other retailers. The area as has undergone a change in lifestyle since the trail opened, he said, and that it has been good for both business and the health of the community.
The Saucon Rail trail has boosted more than the bike shops, said Claire Sadler, Director of Trails and Conservation for the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
“Not only have Saucon Valley Bikes’ sales increased with the addition of the rail trail to the area, but businesses all along the trails in the Lehigh Valley have increased.”
In addition to Saucon Valley Bikes, Curt’s Cyclery in Nazareth, Cutter’s Bike Shop in Bethlehem, Easton Outdoor Company in Easton, Emmaus Run Inn in Emmaus and Genesis Bicycles in Easton, are taking part in the Lehigh Valley Green Retail Program.