The Raystown Visitors Center and all Seven Points campsites will remain closed through the month of April, and possibly longer, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed or delayed the opening of all of their recreation sites indefinitely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau executive director Matt Price said Huntingdon County is in the same boat as the rest of the nation’s tourism industry.
“Everybody is hurting right now as far as the tourism businesses,” he said. “Normally March is a slow month anyway, but with what’s going on and the closures that’s even exacerbated. Nationwide, the CEOs of the major hotel companies met with (President) Trump, and they said the occupancy rates are less than 20% and very few new bookings are coming in. That’s what’s going on on a national scale, and we’re experiencing the same thing.”
All special events and group gatherings have also been canceled, although day facilities and lake access areas are to remain open for the time being.
In addition to these closures, yesterday, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) announced that all facilities at state parks and forests in in the state will be closed until April 30 to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, although the public can still access trails, lakes, forests, roads and parking areas.
Price encourages folks to take advantage of outdoor recreation, though responsibly.
“Until we’re told by the governor to shelter in place, it is still a great idea to get outside and use some of the trails. Although you want to stay away from popular trails, like the Balanced Rock trails, the Lower Trails and the Thousand Steps. Use some of the lesser known trails. We have no shortage of them in the county,” he said.
All of the trails in Seven Points, including the Allegrippis Trails and the Greenside Pathway, are available for bikers, hikers and runners.
Areas open at present include: Raystown Dam, Ridenour Overlook, Corbin’s Island, Snyder’s Run, Aitch, James Creek, Tatman Run, Shy Beaver and Weaver Falls. Facilities inside Seven Points that are open include: Greenside Pathway, Hillside Nature Trail, Old Logger’s Trail, Allegrippis Trails, Public Boat Launch and Oak restroom.
If the pandemic can be overcome by the beginning of the summer, Huntingdon County might very well be positioned to have a particularly strong tourism season.
“The message is stay healthy. If we stay healthy and limit the contact with each other to keep the spread to a minimum, this will pass. The good news for our industry is that locally, when tourism in the country goes down, we get more visitors stopping in Huntingdon County. People stay a little more local instead of traveling greater distances. If history rings true, which that has been an unfailing trend over 12 years, we should see a good summer once this passes. Our job now is to make sure that it does pass,” said Price.
Plans are currently being formed as to how the local tourism industry will move forward should the pandemic continue into the summer months.
“We’re working on those plans as we speak, and hoping not to put them into action. as Dwight Eisenhower said, ‘In preparing for battles, I’ve found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.’”
Nathan can be reached at email@example.com.