Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas had what he considered a good problem when he stopped by the Export Borough council meeting on Tuesday night.
“It’s really great to pull into Export and not be able to find a place to park,” Kopas said.
With a freshly paved Washington Avenue alongside the recently opened fourth phase of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail, the tiny borough of about 900 residents has been burnishing its image for several years through grant-funded improvements and community projects spearheaded by local scouts, and people are taking notice.
“Our small hamlets and towns are very important to us, and yours is humming,” Kopas said. “The more activity we can bring to our small towns, the better they all become.”
One way to bring that activity is the trail itself, which now connects Monroeville, Murrysville and Export, with Delmont next on the agenda.
For Michelle Gilson, owner of the Export Deli on Washington Avenue, the trail’s arrival in town has meant a hopping summer, even before it officially opened on Aug. 17.
“Usually summer is our slow time, and it’s been booming,” Gilson said. “We’ve seen lots of people coming off the trail, especially during the day. That surprised me. I was figuring it would be more nights and weekends.”
At Export council’s meeting Monday night, upcoming project proposals included new vintage-style signage for the borough’s fire department and the relocation of a military memorial from the former American Legion to a more central downtown spot. Much of the funding for those projects will come from places like the Junior Hall Trust and the Export Historical Society.
Kopas praised the efforts of both the borough and its partners.
“It’s a big county,” he said. “There’s 65 municipalities and the more you can draw attention to the good work you’re doing, the better off you’ll be.”
For Gilson, that will mean learning new names.
“We’re a small-town business and I usually know almost everyone who comes in,” she said. “But we’ve had lots of new faces.”