Friday, July 06, 2007


(News-Herald, July 5) I was reflecting once again on the benefits of living in Venangoland, standing ankle deep in the waters of French Creek, right above the point where they empty into the Allegheny. The evening sun was angling in to illuminate 143 different shades of green, and every direction I turned, the view was beautiful.

Families of geese angling in across the water. A father teaching his daughter to skip stones from the edge of the park. Flashes of red and yellow as cyclers worked their way up the bike trail.

It is easy to take so many of the resources around us for granted, to imagine that we enjoy all of these things for free. But I’m inclined to believe that anything worth having is worth paying for.

I’ve written about the bike trail before. I think it is one of the great treasures of the region.

I have no doubt that it brings people in from outside the region. It’s certainly not Disneyland or a giant casino; it will never be a great driving engine of tourism. But it does bring a slow steady trickle of people here to visit, buy some food, envy us our beautiful river and woods.

But if the bike trail never brought a single soul into Venangoland, it would still be a local treasure for what it contributes to quality of life. It gives each of us a chance to walk or run or pedal our way through long stretches of natural beauty the likes of which millions of Americans will never ever see.

I know there are some people who are violently, vehemently opposed to the trail, and while I try to see most sides of an issue, I can’t really see theirs. The people who have blocked the trail’s progress through some areas have put petty selfishness ahead of the good of the community. The people who continue to subject the trail to petty harassment need to crawl back into their caves and get over themselves.

The trail is an enormous asset to the region and deserves appreciation and support, and it’s an asset that’s provided to us without ever an admissions charge. We get to use it for free.

Not all our assets are outdoors. We just finished up the run of Sweet Charity at the Barrow-Civic Theatre, and afterwards dozens of people have stopped me to tell me how great it was to see such an outstanding amateur production in such a great space.

The Barrow is just about to turn fifteen. It showcases local talent and a wide variety of professional acts that our region would be hard-pressed to book without such a showplace to put them.

But a regional theater like the Barrow is a hard resource to maintain. Management has to balance what it actually costs to run the place against what people in this market are willing and able to pay for a theater ticket. Theaters like the Barrow live forever on the edge of financial disaster, even as people go on about how great it is to have such a place here.

The list goes on and on—there are libraries in Venangoland, including the Oil City library that was built as a Carnegie library. A Carnegie library!! The country is filled with cities, much bigger cities, that fought to have a Carnegie library and were bitterly disappointed to fail.

We’ve had a chance this summer to experience the loss of one of those take-it-for-granted resources. Hopefully, once the smoke clears and all the children are done throwing hissy fits at each other, someone will figure out how to restore the use of Two Mile Run County (or Not) Park. But in the meantime, there’s not much the rest of us can do.

But for everything else, we have power. It’s the power to put our money where our mouths are. If you think it would be tragic, a major loss, for DeBence Music World or the Venango Museum of Arts & Science to have to close up shop, write them a check. If you regularly use the bike trail, show your appreciation by sending them some money.

If something’s worth having, it’s worth paying for. Do your part, however large or small, to preserve the better parts of life in Venangoland. Look—I’ll even give you some addresses:

Allegheny Valley Trails Association
Box 264
Franklin, PA 16323

Barrow Civic Theatre
1223 Liberty Street
Franklin, PA 16323

You can find more in the phone book. Go ahead and put your money where your heart is.


TheMangInBlack said...

Mr. Greene! I would have never....ever, guessed that I might have read something like this in your writing: "and while I try to see most sides of an issue, I can’t really see there’s."

I remember, distinctly, an English class where we were yelled at (scolded, slightly reprimanded?) for a "their" and "there" switch! Ok, so that never happened....

In good faith and good humor (not the icecream)

A representative from the Slackers of 99'

Peter A. Greene said...

And let that be a lesson to you, boys and girls, to always proofread your work before you hit "publish"...

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Ohio with my heart in PA, I feel compelled to say it is the bike trail that brought us to your fair city many, many times a year. Those who have chosen to block portions of the trail have done so for very selfish reasons. A problem that is typical on most trails unless people take the time to research the facts, rather than fabricate delusions in their own minds. Yet there is plenty of trail left to enjoy and the detour is only a reminder of other types of people who make the world what it is.

Not only do we stop in the trail office and leave a donation when we visit, we eat and shop in the local stores, have been to the Barrow, Applefest and the Farmer's Market on a regular basis.

We have camped at Two Mile so many times in the past 3-4 years now I wouldn't even attempt a guestimate, and are devastated by the lost opportunity. Now when we come to use the bike trail, we have no place to stay and extend our visit, consequently less need for the restaurants, stores and businesses where we were regulars. For our family the area is moving from a destination to a "stop on the way".

Your assets to us are better than Disneyland, and given the option of heading towards Cedar Point, Geauga Lake (very near our house), Kennywood, or in the past Conneaut Lake (our favorite), my kids always chose Two Mile for the Bike Trail, some Vocelli's Pizza, the tunnels and the Belmar Bridge!

Here's hoping "taken for granted resources" in the future are seen for what they really are, and the "over-all" picture is viewed closely by those in power, and those who elect the power.

Dittman said...

As a cranky hometown guy, I will say that I quit using the bike trail after two run-ons with (different) groups of adults taking over the Sandy Creek parking lot as a post-ride tailgating spot complete with beers and grills. Neither the cops nor the AVTA people seemed to care...It's really too bad, because I really enjoyed it...the trail, not the tailgaters.

From my Flickr