Pennsylvania’s First Indoor Biking Park To Open In Pittsburgh’s Homewood Section

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Local mountain bikers are celebrating early, and their excitement is aimed at Homewood.

There, in a former metal fabricating plant on an entire block, biking aficionado Harry Geyer is creating The Wheel Mill, the state’s first indoor park for bicyclists — mountain bikers, BMX racers and free-stylists and even cyclists who like to keep their wheels on the ground.

Mr. Geyer is leasing the building at 6815 Hamilton Ave., to which he also moved the office of his construction and remodeling business. He has access to 57,000 square feet; Global Links has 23,000 square feet of warehouse space on the eastern end.

Possibly as soon as late summer, Mr. Geyer will open the bike park, rolling it out in stages from one immense room to another so that eventually, people won’t have to drive to Ray’s MTB Indoor Park in Cleveland.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pennsylvanias-first-indoor-biking-park-to-open-in-homewood-636804/

Jim Thorpe: Revitalization Success Story – Pottstown: Umm, No…

Postcard picture from 1915 of a "bird's e...

Image via Wikipedia

I drove up to Jim Thorpe today thinking it would be cooler in the mountains (not) and because it is a funky place (this was not my first visit, hence I already knew it was funky).

Jim Thorpe is the county seat of Carbon County.  Carbon County has a total land area of 387 square miles and 65,249 residents, based on the 2010 Census (a population density of 171 persons per square mile).  Jim Thorpe’s population was 4,804 (2000 census) with a land area of 14.5 square miles (mostly undeveloped, obviously).  Carbon County borders Lehigh County to the south and Luzerne County to the north.

Jim Thorpe was originally two towns across the Lehigh River from one another – Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk.  The two towns merged and adopted the name Jim Thorpe, after famed Native American Olympian Jim Thorpe who is buried in the borough.  Originally, what is now Jim Thorpe was a railroad and coal-shipping center.  Like many Pennsylvania towns, Jim Thorpe found itself on the downside of post-industrialization and languished for many years.  Becoming Jim Thorpe was the first attempt to boost the local economy.  This offered only limited success and so the town leadership needed to find other means of ramping up their economy.

Today, Jim Thorpe is a bustling small town that has become a destination (are we paying attention Pottstown?) using its natural surrounding, its heritage and some good marketing. 

Jim Thorpe has capitalized on being a former railroad town.  You can take an awesome train ride along the Lehigh River.  During the trip you learn about local history, play games and answer questions.  It is very enjoyable and affordable.  Asa Packer and his son Harry Packer have mansions in Jim Thorpe.  Asa’s mansion is a museum and Harry’s mansion is a B&B.  Asa Packer founded the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Lehigh University.

Jim Thorpe is a river town.  The Lehigh River runs between both sides of town.  Taking advantage of being a river town, Jim Thorpe offers whitewater rafting on the Lehigh. 

Jim Thorpe is also a mountain town.  It’s called the “Switzerland of America”.  Taking advantage of being in the mountains, the town offers mountain biking and hiking.  They threw in paintball just because.  And don’t forget the Anthracite Triathlon, paying homage to being a coal-shipping center and part of the Coal Region.

Jim Thorpe is a historic town, full of 19th century architecture.  One can see examples of Federalist, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne and Richardsonian RomanesqueSt. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the Carbon County Courthouse, the Packer Mansions, the Train Station, the Hotel Switzerland, historic Broadway, the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Building and the Carbon County jail are some of the architectural attractions in town.

Jim Thorpe is so cool.  How cool is it??  Jim Thorpe was listed as number 7 on Budget Travel magazine’s America’s Coolest Small Towns in 2009.

Downtown Jim Thorpe is full of restaurants, bars, boutiques and stores of all kinds.  No empty buildings or mental health drop-in center.  Everything is clean and neat.  There is signage every where so you can find your way.  There is plenty of cheap parking…you have to pay but it is only a few dollars for the day.  There is plenty of foot and vehicular traffic coursing through the downtown.  Keep in mind this town has 4,804 people (or there about – not finding 2010 census results yet) and their downtown puts Pottstown’s to shame.  What’s wrong with that picture?  Jim Thorpe is 4 ½ time smaller than Pottstown, off the beaten path (Carbon County is not exactly Montgomery County with 800,000 people) and yet this town still finds ways to revitalize and thrive, even in a bad economy.

Would you suppose the Mayor of Jim Thorpe nuzzles the ear of the Carbon County Commissioners at local events and undermines the borough council’s downtown revitalization strategy and possibly harms a local business?  Would you suppose the Mayor of Jim Thorpe goes on the local radio station and bad-mouths borough council or that his/her spouse calls borough council a bunch of idiots while storming out of a meeting?  Would you suppose the Mayor of Jim Thorpe blows off out-of-town visitors and embarrasses borough council by promising to do something and then not doing it?

What do you suppose Jim Thorpe’s secret it?  Would you think the borough leadership came up with a plan and sticks with it?  Would you think there is a vision for Jim Thorpe and that the leadership works together and speaks with one voice?  Would you think taking advantage of a town’s history and natural surroundings is as good idea? Would you think creating a destination environment to attract repeat visitors is a good strategy?  Do you think embracing art and culture is a good strategy?  Jim Thorpe does.

Obviously, we are doing something very wrong in Pottstown that we are put to shame by a little mountain town in rural Carbon County.  They have left us in the dust.