Montour County Commissioners Develop Plan to Fund Recreational Opportunities

The Visitors Center at the Montour Preserve

From Montour County & the Montour Area Recreation Commission

The Montour County Commissioners, working in conjunction with leadership and boards of the Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC) and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau (CMVB), have developed a plan to ensure the ongoing funding of MARC, including operation of the Montour Preserve and maintenance of the Hess Recreation Area, Robbins Trail, North Branch Canal Trail, Hopewell Park, and other outdoor recreation operations. The proposed plan will increase the county hotel room tax from 3% to 5% effective as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Ken Holdren, Chairman of the Montour County Commissioners, said “Montour County is thrilled that this plan will ensure the continued growth of recreation opportunities in the county to service its citizens and draw outside visitors while at the same time, not increase the tax burden for Montour County citizens.”

Act 18, as enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and signed by Governor Tom Wolf on April 20, 2016, provides the legal authority for the proposed tax increase. Of the counties statewide that have been affected by the new legislature, roughly two-thirds have elected to increase the tax in their respective counties.

Outdoor recreation is one of the major keys to creating an environment that encourages travelers to visit a location. Historically, outdoor recreation has been one of the top two reasons people travel to the Columbia-Montour region.

MARC has worked since 2005 to create, maintain, and protect parks and outdoor recreational opportunities in Montour County, including the Montour Preserve. Bob Stoudt, Director of MARC, stated “it has been a constant struggle to find the funding needed to fulfill our mission and the proposed plan to increase the Montour County hotel room tax rate to support MARC’s operations will be a game-changer for our organization and for parks and trails in Montour County. This plan will fundamentally refocus our efforts from struggling to exist to building the next generation of outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors to Montour County. MARC is sincerely grateful for the support of the Montour County Commissioners, the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau and the many supporters who have advocated on behalf of the long-term stewardship of parks and trails in Montour County.”

According to Otto Kurecian, Executive Director of the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, the CMVB’s philosophy is circular and simple. If you build a place people want to visit, you’ll build a place where people want to live. Build a place where people want to live, and you’ll build a place where people want to work. Build a place where people want to work, and you’ll build a place where business has to be. Build a place where business has to be, and you’ll build a place where people have to visit. “I personally believe a progressive parks and recreational system is a crucial element to the economic viability of our region,” Kurecian remarked.

The Visitors Bureau believes that tourism is critical to the economic well-being of the region and will continue to market, promote and support the local communities. In 2017 (most recent figures), visitor spending in Columbia & Montour Counties equaled $265.6 million, representing a 6.8% increase from the previous year. The 2017 spending figure also set an all-time record high for the counties. The tourism industry currently employs 2,276 people in the two counties, and generates $24.9 million in state and local taxes each year.

WNEP had a news report on these developments.