2018-07-07 / Front Page

Rt. 44 now ‘Highway to the Stars’

One of the region’s fastest-growing tourist attractions received a marketing boost from the state last week. Gov. Tom Wolf inked legislation naming a section of Pa. Rt. 44, stretching south from Sweden Valley to the Lycoming County line, as “Highway to the Stars.”

It remains to be seen how that designation can be promoted to draw attention to the International Dark Sky Preserve at Cherry Springs State Park. The state is also plans additional investment in the park’s infrastructure, improving its water supply, accessibility and parking.

Long-time Coudersport resident Curt Weinhold, a professional photographer, conceived of the High to the Stars designation and received a helping hand from local elected officials.

Cherry Springs has been named a Gold Level Dark Sky Park from the International Dark Sky Association, which raises its profile among professional astronomers and amateur stargazers around the world.

And they have been com­ing in droves to view celes­tial bodies that are invisible to most people due to “light pollution.” Park managers have established a night sky public viewing area as well as a separate overnight astronomy observation field that draws astronomers and professional photographers.

Owners of some area lodg­ing facilities and restaurants have capitalized on the park’s growing popularity and that trend is expected to continue, according to Lori Copp, director of Visit Pot­ter/ Tioga, the regional tourist promotion agency.

Commissioner Paul Heimel, a lifelong Potter County resident, grew up with an appreciation for Cherry Springs State Park and, likewise, recognizes its potential.

“I always marvel at not only the number of people who attend these events, but also the long distances they travel,” he said. “On the most recent dark sky tour I attended, our group was joined by visitors from China, New York City and Chicago. Having that section of Pa. Route 44 designated as the ‘Highway to the Stars’ provides even greater mar­keting potential.”

Weinhold first introduced the concept to the Potter County Commissioners and township governments along the Route 44 corridor. Rep. Martin Causer took the lead in ushering the measure through the legislature and onto the governor’s desk.

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