Eco-tourism ideas shared during Connellsville's 2nd Sustainability Fair
By Marilyn Forbes
Published: Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, 5:45 p.m.
A small group of volunteers started out with a mission to make a difference in Connellsville by helping to bring the city toward a more sustainable future. That group, Sustainable Connellsville, is now focusing on the area's economic development.
During its second-annual Sustainability Fair on Saturday in Yough River Park, the group welcomed vendors, displays and speakers and offered workshops for the public on how to reduce energy and utility usage, promote and maintain local businesses, fund business start-ups or expansions and start and operate a bed and breakfast.
“We are focusing this year on the economic development of the area,” said Geno Gallo, Sustainable Connellsville coordinator. “We want to move more in that direction.”
Gallo said in order to spark the economy's growth in the city, the community must embrace various ideas and directions for Connellsville to maintain or expand.
“We are now looking for entrepreneurs who can see the big picture here,” Gallo said. “We love Connellsville, and we want to stay here, but there are not a lot of jobs here — not a lot of opportunity. I don't think that a big factory is going to be moving here, so people have to seek ways to be a little more entrepreneurial.”
Gallo said Connellsville must take advantage of the Great Allegheny Passage and the Youghiogheny River and tourism throughout the area.
“Eco-tourism is now a great opportunity for the people of the town, and it's something that we hope to see more people begin to take advantage of here,” Gallo said.
Saturday's Sustainability Fair featured exhibits and booths by Angels of Mercy, Wildlife Works and the Uniontown Poultry Association, which conducted a workshop explaining the methods and responsibilities of raising chickens in smaller areas.
“We are presenting something called ‘Backyard Chicken Basics Lite,' ” said Krista Martin, Uniontown Poultry Association secretary. “It's a two-hour presentation on what you have to do and what you hope to get out of having chickens.”
Scott Felgar of Connellsville said he would be in favor of having chickens, and if permitted, would have a few of his own.
“I would definitely like a few chickens,” Felgar said. “I think that would be great.”
In addition to the workshops, booths and displays, entertainment was provided. Food was available for purchase, and several children's activities were held throughout the day.
“This is set up so people can filter in whenever they like,” Connellsville Councilman Brad Geyer said. “They can stop and pick up a schedule and see what workshops or displays that they are interested in, then plan accordingly.”
Geyer said the fair is larger this year. He said the committee plans to continue with the expansion of ideas and networking.
“This type of an event is a growing trend in communities like ours,” Geyer said. “This is a great informational type of event. You get out of this what you put into it.”
Featured at the event were talks by representatives of Hotel D2 Services and the B & B Team, discussing lodging options and plans for the city.
“Lodging in the city is something that is needed,” Geyer said.
Geyer said Saturday's Sustainability Fair covered ideas for starting up lodging and looking into financing options and opportunities.
“We also want to thank everyone who was a part in making this day a success, and a big thanks to West Penn Power Sustainability Energy Fund, who presented us with a grant to have this event.”
The West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund provided Connellsville a grant of $5,000 to co-fund the Sustainability Fair in order to increase public awareness of sustainable energy technologies and assist the city in providing residents and businesses educational information to help reduce their electric, natural gas and water usage.
Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.
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