Attention outdoor enthusiasts: Forest City could be just the destination for you in the near future.
The county is one of two northeastern Pennsylvania cities to have received a special grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to fund a new program that will see greater participation in its outdoor attractions. Neighboring Carbondale also received a grant.
The Outdoor Town Initiative is a program that aims to boost the area’s economy through outdoor recreation. Forest City wants to attract more people and tourists with its wide range of outdoor activities to bring more money to the area.
The Greater Forest City Business Alliance received the $10,000 grant from the DCNR in February 2021. Established to market and support small businesses in the area, this organization often conducts needs assessments to identify problems with struggling businesses.
“It was an honor to receive this scholarship,” said Erin Debish, Vice President of the GFCBA.
The grant was used to pay consultants to help the GFCBA and other local groups form an action team tasked with getting this project off the ground. So far, the funding has already been spent over the past year and an action plan for the Outdoor Town Initiative has been drawn up. This action plan outlines all the steps needed to make Forest City a destination that capitalizes on the outdoor activities that surround it.
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 to connect the area’s outdoor activities with the business district to boost commerce and, they hope, bring more money to the city.
“I’ve been working in this town since I was a teenager,” says Debish. “I look forward to companies in the region finally working together and making things happen.”
The Forest City area offers three main outdoor attractions to participate in this program: the Alpine Ski Resort, the D&H Rail Trail and the Lackawanna River. The area is marketed as a great place for skiing, hiking, biking, running and trout fishing.
Many groups in the Action Team also want to combine what they do in unique ways for the benefit of Forest City.
“We have a tiny trail head that’s a block and a half from Forest City’s CBD, so we want to make a nice entrance out of it,” says Lynn Conrad, retired executive director of the Rail Trail Council. “We see it as a portal to Forest City.”
Prior to receiving the grant for this program, the GFCBA was already working with the Rail Trail Council to develop Forest City into a city known for its railroad history. Debish believes this is why the DCNR considers Forest City a good candidate for the scholarship.
For now, the GFCBA will continue to implement the Outdoor Town Initiative as the Action Team begins to take action to implement this plan. Future changes include connecting outdoor activities to the business district and renovating the exterior of their storefronts to make the city more attractive.
Members of the Forest City community are optimistic about what this plan means for their city.
“Forest City has the potential to become a tourist town, like New Hope or Jim Thorpe, that people just want to visit and have fun outside,” says Debish.
To keep up to date with the 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.