Outdoor enthusiasts, take note: Forest City may just be the destination for you in the near future.
The borough is one of the two cities in Northeast Pennsylvania awarded a special grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to fund a new program that plans to increase involvement with its outdoor attractions. Neighboring Carbondale also received a grant.
The Outdoor Town Initiative is a program that aims to stimulate the area’s economy through outdoor recreation. Forest City wants to draw in more people and tourists with its plentiful outdoor activities to bring more money into the area.
The Greater Forest City Business Alliance received the $10,000 grant from the DCNR in February 2021. This organization was formed to market and support small businesses in the area, often performing needs assessments to identify problems with struggling businesses.
“It was an honor to receive this grant,” says Erin Debish, vice president of the GFCBA.
The grant was used to pay for consultants to help the GFCBA and the other local groups form an Action Team tasked with getting this project in motion. As of now, the grant money has already been spent over the course of last year and an action plan for the Outdoor Town Initiative has been formed. This action plan contains all of the steps needed to take in order to make Forest City a destination that benefits from their surrounding outdoor activities.
In addition to the GFCBA, the Action Team also consists of the Forest City Borough, the Rail Trail Council of NEPA, NEP Sno and ATV trails, the Forest City Area Historical Society, Greater Forest City Industries and many local businesses in the Forest City area. The GFCBA will work on connecting the outdoor activities in the surrounding area to the business district in order to promote commerce and, they hope, bring more money into the city.
“I’ve worked in this town ever since I was a teenager,”Debish says. “I’m excited for entities in the area to finally be working together and accomplishing things.”
The Forest City area has three primary outdoor attractions to get in on this program: the Alpine Ski Resort, the D&H Rail Trail and the Lackawanna River. The area will be marketed as a great place for skiing, hiking, biking, running and trout fishing.
Many groups on the Action Team also want to connect what they provide to the benefit of Forest City in unique ways.
“We have a tiny trail head located a block and a half away from the main business district of Forest City, so we want to make a beautiful entrance out of it,” says Lynn Conrad, retired executive director of the Rail Trail Council. “We think of it as a portal into Forest City.”
Prior to receiving the grant for this program, the GFCBA was already working with the Rail Trail Council to make Forest City a town known for its railroad history. Debish believes this is what make the DCNR consider Forest City as a good candidate for the grant.
For now, the GFCBA will continue to see the Outdoor Town Initiative through, while the Action Team starts taking action towards implementing this plan. Some changes to come in the future include the connection of outdoor activities to the business district and the refurbishment of the outside of their storefronts to make the city more appealing.
Members of the Forest City community are feeling optimistic about what this plan means for their city.
“Forest City has the potential to be a tourist town, like a New Hope or a Jim Thorpe, where people just want to visit and have fun outdoors,” Debish says.
To stay up to date with plans, visit the Greater Forest City Business Alliance Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GFCBANEPA. If you are interested in joining the GFCBA, visit www.visitforestcitypa.com/contact/join-the-gfcba.