State of the Region Project Update: Local Community Advisors Called Upon!

For some, winter may be a time to slow down and hibernate, but at South Mountain Partnership we are busy building for the future! In keeping with our mission of “Conserving Landscape Resources to enrich the quality of life and sense of place of the South Mountain region’s citizens and communities”, The past few weeks have been packed with activities to help inform us about how to improve South Mountain’s public health and environment by engaging with key stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds!

If you didn’t know, tourism is big business in the region with tourism  generating almost 18,000 jobs  and recreation spending exceeding $382 million and (2019 data). It’s no surprise that people come to the area for the exceptional outdoor recreation, remarkable history, world class food products and the unique experiences found in our charming towns to eat and drink,  shop and stay.  All of the tourism agencies in the South Mountain region – Destination Gettysburg, Visit Cumberland, Visit Franklin and Explore York – work to attract visitors, generate repeat visitations and encourage visitors to plan longer visits here. Because of the strong link between South Mountain’s resources and tourism  South Mountain Partnership and Eastwick Solutions convened a Tourism & Hospitality Forum with tourism professionals from each county to learn what visitors value most in the region.

What we learned was visitors strongly value the region’s natural resources like forests, rivers, streams, landscapes, the very lands that the Appalachia Trail runs through and of course, South Mountain is home to the only Appalachian Trail Museum in the country!  In addition to the sense of wilderness, the area enjoys extraordinary farmland and provides the ingredients for local cideries, breweries and wineries that are becoming mainstays of many visitor experiences.

Looking at the collective resources and experiences in the region, it’s not surprising the area is a magnet for visitors from Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore and beyond. Protecting, enhancing and promoting these agricultural, historical, cultural, recreational and natural resources is vital for attracting visitors and our own quality of life. Places that people like to visit are also places where people like to live! The South Mountain Region Report Card will evaluate how the region is doing in protecting these resources-big draws for people in the surrounding markets.

Following the Tourism & Hospitality Forum, South Mountain Partnership convened a meeting with local community advisors to provide insights into the 5 categories of Nature, Recreation, Public Health, Agriculture and History/Culture. Exchanging perspectives and ideas helped focus the group on priorities, measurements and themes that will shape the much-anticipated Report Card, and story map! The discussions were lively and informative, providing perspectives on what to measure (or not) to improve the public health and environment of South Mountain. The next steps are to finalize the measurements, collaborate with local community advisors and crunch data! The goal of this project is to provide information to elected officials , residents, businesses,  non-profits,  and other stakeholders who want to be fully informed about how decisions about our collective future may impact future public health and the environment. This exciting project is an important component to accomplishing our mission so we hope you will continue to be engaged.

Look out for the January newsletter for a deeper dive into the measurements!