The Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau awarded 47 grants totaling more than $500,000 to 29 nonprofit organizations for tourism projects in Fayette County.
From a field of 62 applications, the bureau’s tourism grant review committee and Ron Virag, bureau executive director, selected the grant winners.
Money for the grants comes from the 3 percent hotel tax the Fayette County commissioners enacted in 2008.
Tourism is the second largest industry in the state, Virag said at Friday’s announcement of the grant awards. He said visitors spent $37.2 billion and generated $43.8 billion in taxes last year.
In the Laurel Highlands, tourists spent $1.73 billion, and $635 million of that was spent in Fayette County last year, Virag said.
Tourism accounts for 14,000, or 11 percent, of all jobs in the Laurel Highlands and 3,000, or 20 percent, of all jobs in the county, he said.
“The tourism business is a remarkable business and industry in Fayette County, and we need to promote that as much as we can,” said Al Ambrosini, chairman of the Fayette County commissioners.
The largest grant, $30,000, went to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), which plans to use $25,000 toward construction of 1.4 miles of the Sheepskin Trail from the West Virginia border through Point Marion and $5,000 to work with the state to retain a contractor to remove trees from Point Marion Community Park to open the view of the Monongahela River.
A $10,000 grant the PEC received would be used for marketing and promoting river-related events to capitalize on the river’s designation of the state’s river of the year.
The Carnegie Free Library of Connellsville received four grants, more than any other organization. A $20,000 grant would pay for labor and materials to complete the Connellsville Area Historical Museum, renovate the genealogy room and the Connellsville Area Historical Society’s new office. A $10,000 grant would be used to train up to 24 people to be volunteer ambassadors, who would tell tourists and residents about Connellsville, the county and the highlands. An $8,000 grant would be used for education and recreation programs, and a $7,000 grant would be used to promote the museum, the 1870 Gibson House and Crawford’s Cabin.
The Connellsville Area Historical Society received two grants — $13,000 for improving Crawford’s Cabin and Balsley Pavilion and $10,000 for re-enactors, musicians and other expenses for the 10th anniversary of the Braddock’s Crossing event.
The Fayette County Cultural Trust received two grants for projects in Connellsville. A $25,000 grant would be spent on equipping the cafe and kitchen at the Connellsville Canteen, and $15,000 would be used to market ArtWorks Connellsville.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy received two grants for Fallingwater. A $25,000 grant would be used for a multimedia marketing campaign and participation in a Spirit Airlines promotion, and $10,000 would be used to determine the cause of cracks forming on the top of two foundation piers.
Two grants went to the Fayette County Agricultural Improvement Association. A $20,000 grant would be spent on renovating the Fiddlers Building at the Fayette County Fairgrounds, and $10,000 would be spent on marketing the fair.
The Greater Uniontown Heritage Consortium received two grants — $25,000 for marketing the State Theatre Center for the Arts and $20,000 for the theater’s operating expenses.
The Miracle League of Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands received two grants — $20,000 for a concession stand and restrooms at Bailey Park in Uniontown and $5,000 for marking sporting activities in the Laurel Highlands to people with physical and behavioral disabilities.
Three organizations received grants for the Great Allegheny Passage. The Regional Trail Corp. received a $16,000 grant to resurface the trail between Bruner Run and Camp Carmel and to install wooden fencing. The Allegheny Trail Alliance received a $6,500 grant to promote the trail with the bureau, VisitPittsburgh, the Allegany County Maryland Tourism Office and on wwwGAPtrail.org. The Trail Town Program received a $3,600 grant for trail brochures.
Brownsville Area Revitalization Corp. received two grants — $10,000 for promoting events at the Flatiron Building and the Frank L. Melega Art Museum and $3,500 to pay utilities at the Flatiron Building.
Two grants went to the Community Foundation of Fayette County. A $20,000 grant would be spent on improvements at a park in Snowdon Square in Brownsville, and $3,100 would be used for the Summer Wednesday Walking Series tours.
The Fayette County Historical Society received three grants — $5,000 for improvements to the Abel Colley Tavern and Museum on Route 40 in Menallen Township, $5,000 for operating the museum and Searight Toll House and $1,750 for promoting the museum and tollhouse.
Two grants went to the Redstone Foundation for Fayette County Television. A $10,000 grant would be spent on operating costs, and $4,994 would be spent to create programs to promote the county’s tourism sites.
The foundation also received a $10,000 grant to promote the Independence Day Celebration, Spirits of Fayette County Ghost Tour and Brownsville’s Market Street Arts Festival.
Touchstone Center for Crafts received two grants — $7,500 for marketing and $6,000 to buy three electric kilns for ceramics.
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council received a $15,000 grant to market the Fayette County Buy Local Network and farmers markets.
Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, received a $20,000 grant to market the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association’s basketball championship.
The Private Industry Council of Westmoreland and Fayette Counties received a $20,000 grant for a tourism industry education program.
A $15,000 grant went to the Washington Township Youth Association for building restrooms at its recreation complex, which will host an American Softball Association tournament this year.
The Friends of Ohiopyle State Park received a $5,000 grant for printing its annual calendar and promoting events.
Uniontown Property Development Corp. received a $5,000 grant for improving the George C. Marshall Plaza.
A $2,000 grant went to the Uniontown Lions Club for improvements at the Ben Franklin School playground.
The Dunbar Historical Society received two grants — $3,000 for operations and $1,584 for marketing.
Jumonville received a $4,750 grant for expanding the disc golf course.
Masontown Matters received a $3,000 grant for a Fourth of July celebration at Masontown-German park.
A $7,000 grant went to the Perryopolis Area Heritage Society to market the annual Pioneer Days Festival.
The Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great received a $7,500 grant to renovate a restroom in the Trinity Center.
A $5,000 grant went to the Tri-Town Area Historical Society for expenses for the annual homecoming event.