Trails Summit

Featured speaker John Simmerman addresses the 2023 Greenways & Trails Summit.

Greenways, Trails, and Enlightening Tales from Scranton for PA Outdoor Professionals

SCRANTON — The Pennsylvania Greenways & Trails Summit is recognized as the state’s foremost gathering for outdoor professionals and volunteers who manage the natural amenities enjoyed by millions of residents and visitors from around the globe.

Organized by WeConservePA and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the biennial event recently convened for three days in Scranton, and site selectors could not have been happier with their host city.

More than 250 enthusiastic attendees shared insights, knowledge, and inspiration through seminars, mobile workshops, and networking opportunities at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center.

“The Summit is a catalyst for connecting people, organizations and communities passionate about enhancing Pennsylvania’s great outdoors,” said Owen Worozbyt, operations director for the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority. “We were thrilled to welcome our kindred spirits from across the state, share our hospitality, and most importantly, our ideas for the future.”

Themed “Connecting an Industrious Past with an Innovative Future,” the Summit served as a springboard for underscoring the growing importance of outdoor recreation to Pennsylvania’s economy.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, more than $29 billion is spent by consumers who support more than 250,000 jobs and generate $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenues annually. Gov. Josh Shapiro has requested $2.8 million in the 2023-24 budget to create the state’s first Office of Outdoor Recreation.

Thirty northeast communities connect to the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail where people can walk, run, hike, bike or fish along select locations. The regional trail saw more than 450,000 visitors in 2020, while overall trail usage increased by 200 percent across the state during the pandemic. Changes in the workplace now have economic developers focusing on quality-of-life issues – such as accessibility to trails – being demanded by a post-pandemic workforce.

“Our trails have the unique ability to bring communities together, promote physical activity and enhance the quality of life,” Worozbyt said. “They serve as corridors for recreation, transportation and conservation, enriching the natural and cultural heritage of the Lackawanna Valley.”

Throughout the Summit, participants explored topics including trail design, infrastructure improvements, community involvement and funding strategies, paving the way for positive development of the state’s most vital outdoor assets.

“We were honored to host the 2023 Greenways & Trail Summit,” said Alexa Peregrim, sales manager for the Lackawanna County Visitors Bureau, who served as event planning co-chair with Worozbyt. “Folk got to see Scranton in a different light and learn more about our vast array of historic, cultural and natural amenities.”

The Summit was partially financed by a grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Pennsylvania Recreational Trails Program, administered by the DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.