GALETON — After working as an assistant at the Route 6 Alliance for three years, Candace Hillyard, of Galeton, recently stepped into the role of executive director.
When Terri Dennison, founder and former executive director of the Route 6 Alliance, relocated this past fall, there were several positions open, including a facade coordinator position, artisan trail coordinator position, executive director and, shortly after, a bookkeeping position.
“We’re operating on new staff that I could not be happier with,” Hillyard said. “I’m really pleased with the work that’s being done.”
The Route 6 Alliance was established in 2003 to manage the Route 6 Heritage Corridor and to implement several planning efforts along the corridor, including branding and marketing plans, and community development programs. The Alliance has representatives from 11 counties, nine convention and visitor bureaus, four heritage areas, local development districts, local business owners, chambers of commerce and other interested parties along the corridor.
Hillyard said the Alliance is wrapping up its façade program in the PA Wilds region and is expanding the program to the Endless Mountains Heritage Region in Bradford and Wyoming counties. The façade program will provide funding to commercial building owners and business owners as well as non-profits, with the restoration of building facades within the targeted area.
Beyond that, Hillyard said the Alliance is working on several other projects, including working with its tourism partners to to build a bike friendly hospitality program, work with businesses to become bike friendly, and develop and promote six signature gravel loop trails off Route 6.
“With PA Route 6 being designated as a US Bike Route 36, outdoor recreation is really taking off, especially in our area,” she said.
Northern Pennsylvania is rich with local artisans, and the Route 6 Alliance has an artisan trial to support that. Hillyard said this year they’ve had the highest number of artisans join the trail to date. People can use the artisan trail map to find locally made goods, such as soap, pottery, woodwork, fiber arts, jewelry, painting and more. The artisan trail can be found at https://www.paroute6.com/artisan-trail.
The Route 6 Alliance is also working to get part of Route 6 designated as a National Scenic Byway, which will help highlight the highway’s importance to the history and heritage of the state and country, and build awareness of the need to maintain and preserve the communities and landscape along the corridor, Hillyard explained. This requires first to be designated a Pennsylvania Scenic Byway.
Looking forward, Hillyard said they need to look toward the future while developing a “new normal” by being innovative and work collaboratively now more than ever. With this in mind, they’ve started “Revitalization Thursdays,” a weekly webinar series (https://www.paroute6.com/revitalization-thursdays-webinar-series) open for business partners across the corridor.
Hillyard is looking forward to getting out in the communities and meeting people face-to-face who she has started developing relationships with in her previous position as assistant.
“I have a passion for the region and I have a big heart for rural communities. I seek the passion in other community members,” Hillyard said.