Gateway Communities

McCollom Development Strategies is honored to have been a part of this first Gateway Communities effort.

Gateway Communities is a program similar in many ways to the River Town Program.  Community leaders, residents and business owners work collaboratively with nearby public parks and forests officials to improve connections for visitors and residents.  Public lands offer a myriad of great outdoor recreational opportunities and often public programs for the whole family.  In turn communities can be a resource to advocate, sustain and continue to support these nearby lands.

For more information on this program, see the article below.

In early 2015, the R.K. Mellon Foundation supported our idea to explore the “Gateway Community” concept as it would relate to our state parks and forests. (See our fact sheet for additional information.)

Simply put, a gateway community is any community next to public lands. It is a “gateway” to the resource by virtue of its location but a gateway community is also a branding mechanism. Many in a community already recognize the value and the natural mutual goal – parks and forests wants visitors. Town businesses want customers. Residents benefit as a result of having the park and forest nearby and property values increase. Anything that gives a visitor something else to do and see is another reason for him or her to stay a little while longer, spending money and spreading the word about the fun they’re having and the beauty they’re experiencing. The goal of the Gateway Community Initiative is to make sure the state parks and forests and the communities that are the “gateway” to them form an unbreakable partnership for the benefit of both.

Our pilot community is Ligonier, gateway to Forbes State Forest, Linn Run State Park, Laurel Mountain State Park and, indeed, the entirety of the beautiful region known as the Laurel Highlands. A Community Action Team, led by our facilitator and consultant Cathy McCollom of McCollom Development Strategies, with members from the local chamber of commerce, visitors’ bureau, township and borough government, and business, community, and nonprofit leaders came together to assess the connections that exist and those that can be improved.

As a result, the Action Team:

Assessed the community through the eyes of a new visitor * Created and installed new signage * Shared promotion on websites and other marketing pieces * Developed a “rain and shine” walking tour brochure and mobile app * Hosted an open house at Linn Run for business and community leaders and the public *

Ligonier is just the beginning! If you would like to discuss how your community might become the next Gateway, contact Marci and let’s explore the possibilities.