Williamsburg possibilities are intriguing

Smaller communities like Williamsburg, which are a significant distance from a major business and governmental corridor, need to capitalize on whatever assets they possess to be vibrant entities on the geographical landscape.

It is not enough for leaders of those communities to be content with what some people refer to as “rural character,” without trying to find ways to make that particular character work as much as possible on the small communities’ behalf.

Williamsburg, near the Blair-Huntingdon county line, since the early 1990s has had a resource — the Lower Trail — with the long-term potential to bring significant economic benefits to the town and its environs.

Full recognition of that potential finally seems to have arrived and, as a front-page article in Monday’s Mirror reported, there now is an active effort to make things happen.

But locally based ideas alone aren’t always capable of obtaining desired objectives, and it is encouraging that there is a reaching-out on Williamsburg’s part to use others’ good experiences as a guide for what it envisions.

Likewise, it is encouraging that Williamsburg officials have embraced help from knowledgeable resources from outside their area to try to help them assemble a plan of action to achieve desired results.

In Williamsburg’s case, “desired results” means using the Lower Trail as a catalyst not only for expanding recreational opportunities but also for attracting economic development of various kinds.

On the matter of using others’ experiences to help Williamsburg achieve its Lower Trail-related goals, one of which is to become an important component of a fully developed September 11th National Memorial Trail, a Williamsburg-related contingent visited the southwestern Somerset County community of Confluence, which already is well-established as a trail community.

As Monday’s Mirror article reported, Confluence is one of nine communities located along the Great Allegheny Passage that became part of what is known as the Trail Town Program. That program came about under The Progress Fund, an economic development initiative credited to the efforts of the late U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha of Johnstown.

In Monday’s article, state Sen. Judy Ward, R-30th, offered good advice to Williamsburg regarding its interest in becoming part of Trail Town, as well as part of the September 11th Trail.

“Being recognized as a Trail Town is more than just a label, and it requires more than signage,” she said. “It requires community leadership and partnerships within the community. It requires visioning and planning. There are many components that must come together to make this a successful effort.”

When it visited Confluence, the Williamsburg delegation learned firsthand how the Somerset County community has realized business and residential growth as a result of its trail.

David McFarland, Blair County planning director who was a member of the Williamsburg contingent, said the visit to Confluence showed the benefits of having a trail in one’s community. But he followed by making the interesting point that the focus in Confluence was the benefits of just one trail of one type, whereas “Williamsburg has eight trails of different types.”

Williamsburg’s “rural character” houses exciting possibilities not imagined in the early 1990s.

Accessing those possibilities will require uninterrupted determination and hard work, of which Williamsburg and those aligned with it are capable.

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