|By Julie Benamati, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 26, 2004 -PATTON, Pa. -- A state-commissioned study of a proposed $40 million resort at Prince Gallitzin State Park calls the plan risky and slammed Cambria and Blair County tourism bureaus, saying they have done a poor job promoting the area.
The $50,000 study, ordered by state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and conducted by Horwath Horizon Hospitality Advisors of Virginia, examined material that has been on the agenda of state Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, for about a decade.
In an effort to boost tourism and bring jobs to the region, Haluska has proposed to add an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, walking and tubing trails, cross-country skiing and a lodge with as many as 200 to 300 units.
But the report says Haluska's plan may not be feasible because northern Cambria County is not a destination for travelers, the proposed resort is not near a major transportation corridor or urban area and there are no other lodges in any other state parks.
The study also blasted area tourism bureaus, saying they have not done a good job of marketing the tourist attractions in the region.
"I'm sure the tourism people will take exception to that," Haluska said.
Lisa Dailey, executive director for Greater Johnstown-Cambria County Visitors and Convention Bureau, 416 Main St. in the city, also took offense to the study.
"I do take exception to that, and I want to know what (the finding) is based on," Dailey said in a telephone interview from her office. "When you look at what this organization has done with Thunder in the Valley and Keystone State Games, we must have marketed it well because people are here." Dailey said the economic impact of tourism on the area has grown from $45 million to $175 million in about 10 years. She also said she and her staff are supporting Haluska's plan.
"One reason you develop attractions is to bring tourists to the area," Dailey said. "We're trying to create destination points in that part of the county." Cheryl Ebersole, executive director of Allegheny Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau in Altoona, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Haluska said the rural location is a positive aspect, not a negative one as stated in the report.
"That's why you're coming to a lodge near Prince Gallitzin," Haluska pointed out. "You're coming to escape it all." Haluska said the study is like putting the cart before the horse.
"And as far as no lodges in any other state parks, you obviously have to build the first one somewhere," he added.
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