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County tourism grants total $382,000

Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Beverly Braverman of the Mountain Watershed Association thanks Westmoreland County commissioners during the recently held Westmoreland Tourism Grant Program. Funds were chosen from a record number of applicants. The county commissioners, the grant review committee, and the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau will award $382,575 to county businesses and organizations.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Joining the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau was one of the best decisions that members of the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum have made to date, according to Cassandra Vivian, executive director of the nonprofit organization.

“It's just unending, the services (the bureau) is providing to this area, so it was wise to (become a member),” Vivian said.

The benefits of membership were recently enhanced when the museum was approved for funding related to two of the facility's ongoing initiatives by the Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program, which is administered by the Ligonier-based bureau.

In all, 65 businesses and nonprofit organizations will receive more than $382,000 in funding through the program.

Those groups will get funding via 71 grants — the largest number of grants the program has funded since its creation in 2003, said Ron Virag, president and CEO of the bureau.

Since the program's inception, $3.5 million has been distributed, Virag said.

This year's funding allotment was awarded during a ceremony March 12 at Westmoreland @rt30 in Unity.

The glass museum, located at the Mt. Pleasant Glass Center in Mt. Pleasant Township, received a $2,500 capital grant for tourist-oriented, directional signs for placement along state routes 31 and 119, pending approval of sign permits from PennDOT and other involved municipalities.

“We are hoping to install four signs total, hopefully two on Route 31 and two on Route 119,” Vivian said.

The museum, which celebrates the history and heritage of Mt. Pleasant's three former glass factories, also received a $2,000 marketing grant via the program to be used for brochure distribution to promote the museum.

“The (bureau) will distribute up to 15,000 of our brochures outside the region at visitor centers and other key places,” Vivian said. “That's exciting, too. The more publicity you have, the more visitors you may have.”

Local watershed group accepts ‘challenge' grant

Among other area organizations with the opportunity to receive program funding is the Mountain Watershed Association, which is dedicated to creating healthy streams and safe trails within the Indian Creek and Youghiogheny Watershed.

The association will receive a $10,000 capital grant if its members can raise an additional $40,000 by Dec. 31 to be used for the construction of a bridge across Indian Creek on the Donegal section of the Indian Creek Valley Trail.

“We already have in hand $35,000, and we need $80,000. We have $45,000 with this grant, but we will need to raise an additional $35,000 to make it count,” said Bev Braverman, the association's executive director.

In addition to monetary donations, the association is seeking those willing to donate building materials, Braverman said.

“We need oak deck boards which we need to be a minimum of 8 inches wide, 3 inches thick and 10 feet long. We also need donations of wolmanized lumber for railings.”

Donors who wish to be sponsors can give $250 for a plank in the bridge, or any amount in general, at

Those interested in discussing a major gift or naming rights for the bridge should contact Braverman at or 724-455-4200, ext. 1#.

Many other local recipients are rewarded

West Overton Village & Museums near Scottdale will use a total of $9,800 in capital and marketing grants to promote the site and create an entrance that clearly directs visitors to the historic mansion, managing director Jessica Kadie-Barclay said.

“The biggest first impression when people come to West Overton is, ‘Where do I go?'” she said. “We don't want (big) signs that say, ‘Start here,' so officials are looking to create a walkway that leads visitors to the mansion first.”

Other area program grant recipients included:


• Days Inn Donegal — $7,500

• Caddie Shak — $5,000

• Westmoreland Agricultural Fair — $5,000

• Escape to Donegal — $4,500

• Hillside Orchards — $4,000

• Historic Scottdale — $4,000

• Laurel Highlands Heritage Festivals — $4,000

• Living Treasures Animal Park — $4,000

• Mt. Pleasant Glass & Ethnic Festival — $4,000

• Christmas in the Mountains — $3,600

• Overly's Country Christmas — $3,000

• Christian Family & Children's Center — $2,000

• Geyer Performing Arts Center — $2,000

• Holiday Inn Express & Suites Donegal — $2,000

• Scottdale Fall Festival — $2,000

• Laurel Highlands Snowmobile Club — $750

• NSDAR Braddock Trail Chapter — $700

• Youngwood Historical & Railroad Association Inc. — $500


• Living Treasures Animal Park — $4,000

Grant funding comes from a 3-percent tax levied on overnight accommodations throughout the county.

One-third of the revenue from the hotel room tax goes toward the grants, which can be used for capital improvements or marketing outside of the county.

“There's so much good that can be done with the funds available. We wanted to involve as many (recipients) as possible,” Virag said. “Every little bit helps further the reach of tourism.”

A.J. Panian, an editor for Trib Total Media, can be reached at 724-547-5722 or Staff writer Kari Andren contributed to this report.

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