Our small city has been taking a progressive approach to drawing more visitors to explore Titusville’s natural beauty and rich history.

The city of Titusville first got on board with the Trail Town Program when it adopted its Trail Town Master Plan in 2013.

The plan is altogether a broad and focused assessment of what Titusville needs and what it already has available for users of the Erie-to-Pittsburgh Trail, which is still under construction.

Priority needs in the 2012 assessment are, first and foremost, more eateries, more lodging and more gas and convenience stores.

While increasing industrial job numbers within the city remains a priority, as well as a tried and true way to bring new residents to the city — something that would ultimately drive up retail demands and increase the tax base — continuing to stimulate tourism traffic will do much the same.

It’s not a competition between the two initiatives. Both are deeply important to the vitality of this beautiful valley town; and both should go hand-in-hand.

The growing appreciation of outdoor recreation appears to be somewhat of a cultural push-back to the lethargy and phone-staring that has settled such a huge portion of the population onto the comfort of couches. Scenes from the films, “Wall-E” and “Idiocracy,” come to mind.

The proof of that cultural push-back is in the numbers.

According to a Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC) study, in 2013, 158,507 trail users took to the hiking and biking path between Titusville and Parker, with $7 million annually pumped into those local communities.

The average amount spent per trail user, according to the RTC study is $21.62 on food and lodging.

Most trail users are from 25 counties in Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio, with the majority residing in Venango, Butler, Allegheny, Clarion and Crawford counties.

Ten percent of trail users traveled from out of state, with 13 percent spending money on overnight accommodations, averaging 2.6 nights per stay.

All of this represents a $3 million increase in trail user spending from 2006, according to the RTC.

So, with that information, and on my own, personal experiences on the area trails and the majority of my lifetime spent living in Titusville, I compiled a list of Titusville’s needs to become a destination hub for the Erie-to-Pittsburgh Trail.

This comes with hopes the still unfinished portions of the trail get completed as soon as possible.

I’ve also added a few “bonus” needs that I’d just love to see.

Titusville needs a bicycle shop — above all else.

If riders pop a tire, bend a rim or need general help in deciding on repair options and equipment, Titusville should have a place that helps them get back on the trail.

While the newly installed Dero DIY bike fix-it stations are helpful for some needs, nothing says “trail friendly” quite like a retail location designed, specifically, with trail users in mind.

The bike shop should include accessories and options for hikers.

This bike shop should also be an overall outdoor accessories and gear supplier, guaranteeing competitive prices for dehydrated foods and ultra-light materials, sold individually instead of bulk.

Available for both rent and purchase should be bikes, snowshoes, cross-country skis and other outdoor equipment.

While there is a very well-stocked comic books store, which is already Trail Town Certified, along with several other current businesses, there needs to be a traditional new and used book store — as national trends have shown renewed interest in the perusal and purchase of traditional books.

People may like to discover a new book while camping on long journeys up and down western Pennsylvania — or just a leisurely look through piles of bound pages.

Titusville also needs a coffee shop.

A coffee shop so dedicated to producing high quality coffee that it is as worth a trip to our small hamlet as the tasty suds produced at the Blue Canoe Brewery.

Perhaps a coffee shop and bakery would be a perfect stop for trail users. Maybe something with outdoor seating for summer months, and a cozy atmosphere for cold seasons.

And, I’ll say this for all eateries and bar/pubs… outdoor seating, outdoor seating, outdoor seating.

While there had been a local, privately-owned wine outlet at one time in Titusville, I feel like now is the time to strike out on bringing one back to the city’s downtown.

Additionally, Titusville has, for a long time, dearly missed having a movie theater of our own.

With the rebirth of so many old community theaters, I can only imagine how such a revival of the Penn Theater would have succeeded, today.

Alas, that building is gone, but another can be erected.

“The Movies At” seems to do well in local communities, like Meadville and Cranberry.

A similar two- or three-screen cinema should be sufficient for both visitors and area residents to take in a good show after the sun sets on the trails.

I also think a hostel would do well in Titusville, and there just happens to be a perfect building for such a venture sitting right next to The Herald office.

The old YMCA building seems like the perfect location and vibe for a hostel, and people used to actually stay there for periods of time, years ago.

On the back side of the building, there is a space above the pool room that looks like an excellent morning breakfast balcony for tourists to take in some unique culture and scenery, with Dutch Hill looming in the backdrop over a series of industrial buildings.

On the subject of my beloved Dutch Hill, how great would it be for a proper lookout to be constructed on the north face of the hill? Walking around the top of it, I get a full 180-degree panorama of our town.

I would not be at all opposed to sacrificing a few trees to construct a lookout deck.

Maybe even a big “TITUSVILLE” sign — like the “HOLLYWOOD” sign — stretching across its rounded peak.

This city also greatly needs a clothing and shoe store that offers a mix of high-end and low budget products that cater to a broad demographic.

A wider selection of eating options would also be a big draw for Titusville.

If people could bike, hike or drive to Titusville, knowing they can expect to fulfill the demands of their tastebuds beyond the traditional foods (which I do love), the increase in traffic to our little valley would be nothing but a boon to the economy.

I know that I, personally, drive to Cranberry to eat authentic Mexican food.

While we do have excellent Chinese and Italian restaurants, other ethnic foods would be just as welcome.

And, no chain places, please. Authentic foods or I’ll make it at home.

And, how about an art supply store?

Beyond the striking of artistic inspiration one finds on the trail network and the inevitable urge to sit down and paint the scenery, let’s consider the wealth of budding talent from our local artists and crafters.

Art breathes life into a community almost as powerfully as jobs.

Therefore, this city should also adopt a mural program, like the one recently undertaken by Oil City.

We have plenty of blank canvases on our downtown buildings.

And, I don’t doubt that historically sensitive works of art would largely be appreciated by building owners.

Going along with Titusville’s Victorian downtown as a draw for tourists from modernized, metropolitan areas, we must get our historic preservation legislation absolutely right.

The ability for visitors to come to Titusville and stroll the quaint, narrow streets, lined with historic architecture that will not be tarnished or torn down is a major draw.

And, with the need for building and home owners within Titusville’s historic district to maintain their buildings’ unique architecture, a wood shop that specializes in Victorian embellishments and other needed products will likely do quite well in coming years.

The Titusville Planning Commission has been working out the details of historic protection for more than two years, so the clientele for such a shop may be waiting just around the bend.

So, that is my vision for a resurgence of Titusville’s great downtown.

Opportunities are aplenty as of late, and I see those opportunities only growing over the coming years.

And, once there is a strongly organized effort to essentially rebrand Titusville as a sort of a year-round outdoor resort community — so to speak — with increasing industrial, office and retail jobs for local residents, I say the sky’s the limit for my hometown.

I write these things not to overlook or downplay the wonderful businesses we already have, but to call upon our community, business leaders and public officials to work together to guide Titusville into a new era.

Let us not bemoan the added traffic to our streets and sidewalks or shortages of parking spaces (though I maintain there is no such parking problem, provided you’re willing to walk more than 15 feet at a time), let us embrace something we haven’t seen for far too long… a wealth of new faces, with new visions for our small and endearing city, with its glimmering past and bright future.

Joshua Sterling is a reporter for The Herald, and can be reached, Sunday through Thursday, at 827-3634, or by email, at jsterling@titusvilleherald.com.

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