Tourism from 50 years ago unfulfilled | News, Sports, Jobs

Historical irony.

Ground Hog Day.

Whatever you want to call it, it’s interesting to me when a conversation unfolding now unfolded almost exactly the same way 50 years ago.

Not only is there some irony there, but there might be something for us to learn.

The Kinzua Regional Marketing Initiative is seeking to explore possible development for the area around the Kinzua Dam, Kinzua Beach and Jakes Rocks.

Times Observer file photos The Kinzua Dam was once seen as the hinge in a tourism renaissance for Warren County. 50 years later, many of the projections have fallen woefully short but there are initiatives underway to keep that discussion alive.

There’s been near-constant discussion about the importance of tourism to the future of our area and I don’t think those conversations are suddenly going to go away.

I was looking at the Jan. 26, 1967 Warren Times-Mirror and Observer. I can’t even remember why, honestly.

But a story struck my eye because it felt like I could have written it last week: “Area’s Potential Depends on Planning.”

It was coverage of a presentation given by Dick Costley, then chief of the Division of Recreation for the US Forest Service’s DC office.

“Pointing out that the Warren community has a recreational opportunity equal to that in any other section of the nation,” the article begins, Costley “told an attentive audience at the courthouse last night that what is done with that opportunity depends entirely on the planning and support it receives at the local level.”

Boy, does that sound like a familiar refrain?

Obviously the context was different. The Kinzua Dam – and all the recreation amenities in that area were in their infantry.

“While federal agencies have constructed many facilities in the vicinity of the Kinzua Dam, and planned the construction of many more, he said, the eventual development of the possibilities they present will depend on local initiative. The government has not and will not do the entire job for the community.

“These developments, however, either properly advanced or improperly directed, are bound to bring an important change to the Warren area,” Don Neal, outdoors editor, wrote. “Tourists will come to the county in great numbers to view the huge impoundment and find recreational pleasures in its environments. If they found the experience pleasurable, they would return again and again. If they were displeased with the experience, they would fail to return.”

Costley’s address reflects the times it was given in other ways too. The automobile broadened the horizons for many American families.

He highlighted the emphasis in Congress on recreation amenities.

“With the public having more time, more money and improved methods of travel the demand for recreation was beyond comprehension,” the report states. “Participation in recreational activities, he said, was over 20 times as great as at the end of World War II.”

That shouldn’t be surprising given the economic prosperity of the post-war period that continued into the following decades.

More from the report: “Great nations of the past had their failures because their populations couldn’t adapt themselves to an abundance of free time. Through the complete development of our recreation facilities, and encouraging their use by the public, it was thought the future of the nation could be assured.”

That’s an interesting idea that could be its own research project.

Costley was sure to point out a broader tourism vision than just the Kinzua Dam.

“The speaker pointed, too, to the fact that Warren County has other assets besides those of the Kinzua Dam complex,” the reporter wrote. “He called attention to the beautiful hills west of the river, the river itself as far downstream as Tionesta, and the scenic grandeur of our countryside. With proper development these could be as valuable as any other of the more prominent attractions.”

He did speak against over-promotion evidenced by “neon trim and unsightly billboards and directional signs.”

But if the advertising were accurate? His projection for the area is, well, insane.

“This done, we can expect the millions of visitors that have been projected for the area, as well as the inflow of money that will materially aid the economy of the area…. *(T)he people of Warren County would have to live with the kind of development that eventually came to the county. That if this development was good it would be a benefit, and if it was poor, living conditions in the community would be miserable.

“Therefore it was up to the leaders of the community to see that the best possible planning, zoning and promotion planning were applied to the problem at an early date.”

It’s impossible to know where the next five, 10 or 50 years will take this 50-year-old debate.

It seems unlikely that the county will draw “millions” but maybe someone will look back at that assertion in 50 years and call it insane. Who knows!

Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox

Leave a Comment