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More trail friendly, more earth friendly are goals of networking session in Connellsville

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 7:27 a.m.

As the Great Allegheny Passage nears final completion this summer, businesses can learn how being green and trail friendly can bring new and returning customers to their doors through the Trail Town Certified program.

An afternoon of networking will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. March 21 at the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville.

This event is the merger of two popular business and tourism-oriented programs: the GAP Sustainable Business Network, or GAP SBN, in Pennsylvania and the Trail Friendly business certification in Maryland.

The event kicks off the start of the new Trail Town Certified Business Network.

Local trail users and tourists will have a consistent and convenient way to find businesses engaging in sustainable and trail friendly practices along the Great Allegheny Passage — the 150-mile hiking and biking trail from Cumberland, Md., to Pittsburgh.Existing members of the GAP SBN and Trail Friendly programs will continue to be part of the Trail Town Certified program. Since the Trail Town Certified program is merging two existing programs, businesses and interested parties will learn how efforts in being both sustainable and trail friendly can benefit their business. Marketing techniques and trip package planning are two main topics that will be covered during the session.

“Trail businesses can learn how different ways to be more trail friendly and more earth friendly can help increase business, but also save costs in operation. For example, being able to know more information about the trail or how far the next Trail Town is can result in better trips and return customers, while finding ways to reuse materials and reduce waste can lower expenses,” said Will Prince, coordinator of the Trail Town Program for the Progress Fund. “Businesses can become Certified Trail Friendly or Certified Sustainable, or both. Through this business network, businesses can meet and learn how others have reached out to the trail market and tourists.”

Prince was a former Student Conservation Association Trail Town member in Connellsville.

Subjects to be discussed include Trail Friendly signage and bike racks; how to add storefront plants or chef gardens at your business; and “daylighting.”

“This is a way which uses natural light to reduce the need for electric lighting in the interior of a building,” explained Michelle Rapp, Trail Town Outreach Corps fellow. “Windows and skylights allow the daylight in, while reflective surfaces, like mirrors, bounce the light into the darker corners of a room. Automatic lighting controls increase the efficiency of daylighting by monitoring light levels and increasing or decreasing the electric lighting as needed.”

Displays will include hospitality information and solar panels. Literature about Trail Towns and events will also be available. Snacks will be provided.

This is a great opportunity for businesses from across the Great Allegheny Passage to meet businesses from other Trail Towns as bike season starts up, the officials noted.

Please RSVP to wprince@progressfund.org or sca.mrapp@gmail.com or call 724-216-9160 ext. 318 no later than March 19. The Carnegie Free Library is located at 299 S. Pittsburgh St., Connellsville.

Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.

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