Broadening its base beyond the merchant community has enabled Downtown Hawley Partnership to do great things, DHP’s president Sandy Gabrielson noted. He emceed their Strategic Planning meeting May 24th at the Hawley Public Library. DHP members and the general public had a chance to assess its development and where they hope to be, five years ahead.
HAWLEY - Broadening its base beyond the merchant community has enabled Downtown Hawley Partnership to do great things, DHP’s president Sandy Gabrielson noted. He emceed their Strategic Planning meeting May 24th at the Hawley Public Library. DHP members and the general public had a chance to assess its development and where they hope to be, five years ahead.
Many accomplishments were cited, as the organization considers its 10th anniversary in 2018. Beginning as the Hawley Merchants committee of the Hawley Lake Wallenpaupack Chamber of Commerce, DHP has taken into its fold members of the clergy, other nonprofit groups and the public at large- both full time and part time residents. In short, DHP is made up of anyone with a divested interest in the well-being of the greater Hawley,
Pennsylvania area, the place they call home, a place they love and wish to embrace, protect and nurture.
“We took a look at our accomplishments,” Gabrielson said. “And certainly the DHP has accomplished quite a lot in its nine-year history… for a civic organization, that’s really, really good.” The Chamber and the former merchant group, like other civic organizations, all had (or have) their niche. “The DHP is one of the first organizations in my experience here that casts their net a little wider.” He said because of the inclusiveness the DHP has been able to have a better idea of what people were looking for in the community, what they are happy about and what they felt could be improved.
“The success of the organization really depends on that communication,” he said. DHP, he added, is seeking to keep improving on communication.
In the last few years they have undertaken a facelift of the downtown, in part including making use of building facade grants, working with the Benjamin Moore’s Main Street Matters promotion, new banners and installation of “street furniture”- burgendy benches and matching planters.
“Probably in my humble opinion, the biggest positive impact was the planters and benches,” Gabrielson stated. “That I think gave a solid, unified base for beauty within the Borough of Hawley.”
DHP hopes to find more grants to help business owners improve their properties.
Currently, DHP is seeking to fill the part-time position of Project Coordinator, whose job in part is to facilitate the grant search and coordinate with business owners.
Their plan outlines its organizational structure, broken down into committees. Being able to work together between committees- “cross pollination” as DHP board director Elaine Herzog said, has also been one of their strengths.
Another essential strategy is the focus on seasonal events, to draw tourism.
The hope is to provide a “center hub” to draw visitors to the Lake, or passengers aboard the train, to come and visit and enjoy downtown Hawley, Gabrielson said. To do that, they are capitalizing on special events.
Gabrielson, who is in the insurance business and on the board of Ritz Company Playhouse, reflected that when he came to the Hawley area in the early 1970’s, this was truly a “10-week economy.” At that time, even more then it is today, local businesses relied on the summer trade to make ends meet. Over the years, this has expanded.
DHP has been working to help bring interest in the area in the colder months, particularly with the highly successful Winterfest celebration in December. Winterfest started in 1999. Jeanne Genzlinger stated that summer is still the key season for local business, but the Holiday season is second biggest. Winterfest is seen as an important economic driver, but also a way for the community to come together and celebrate this wonderful time of year. Kate Hayes co-chairs the Winterfest Committee with Genzlinger.
Wally Lake Fest began in 2010, tying the downtown with the greater Lake Region. Held in late August, this has also blossomed into an anchor event for DHP. Rory O’Fee said that the planning committee is talking about adding more activities to bring more people back to downtown. He said that approximately 10,000 people attend Wally Lake Fest- as long as the weather cooperates. Nearly 8,000 people like it on Facebook, and in August over 35,000 people check the event’s web site.
Meanwhile, Hawley Harvest Hoedown in October has been a popular event for many years, and has been growing. Committee chair Jill Carletti said that the event has much potential, and has grown. The evening bluegrass concert, added in recent years, “is the cherry on top of the day,” she said.
To complete the seasons, Hawley Earth Fest was started in April 2015, having developed from the successful Pike Wayne Earth Day Festival that was held at the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center for several years. Jason Merill stated that Earthfest is “getting off the ground” but could use more volunteers.
Herzog chairs the Merchants Committee. She said they struggled with a name to call it, and considered “STP”- for “Same Two People.” As they grow, she added their goal is to make that “Same Ten People”, “Same Twenty People” and so on.
The committee has worked on ways to promote business, including Small Business Saturday, co-op advertising and finding smaller events to fill in between the large seasonal festivals. One strategy is to piggyback on the Chamber’s arts and craft fairs held in Bingham Park in June and September. The idea is to hold a sidewalk sale at these same time and expand the concept to “Arts & Crafts & Antiques.”
The Merchants Committee also distributes rack cards, does business referrals and even has a parade float. They also intend to get back to hosting ribbon cutting ceremonies for new businesses.
Although small in number, Herzog said they have a lot to do, and invites more committee participation.
Jill Carletti chairs the Marketing Committee. They keep up a web site and hope to do more with social media and blogging. She credited Rory O’Fee, who is also the marketing director for Woodloch, for making a beautiful DHP brochure.
Dick Briden oversees the Physical Improvement Committee. Obtaining the grant funds for the “street furniture,” which totaled around $50,000, was huge, he said. Simon Knox, their first Project Coordinator, was noted for his able work at coordinating the project. The committee, Briden said, must work closely with the Borough.
Maintenance of the flower planters is essential, and he noted the work of group that takes care of them, including Wanda Eisenhauer and Susie George. The Country Gardeners club is also helping this year.
Dick Teeter and his crew, Briden said, help in changing the lamp post banners.
Sponsors are needed to buy more bicycles for the Bike Share program, which is most used on weekends.
Hawley Farmer’s Market, run by Wanda Eisenhauer, is a very popular activity in Bingham Park. This year, the Market has expanded its hours, every Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. Five new vendors were added.
Another new project is the Community Garden, which is expected to rise in the backyard of the Hawley Public Library this year. Briden said that a soil source has bene found, and boxes are on order. People are volunteering. In a few weeks, he said there will be 10 beds which people may rent for a year; one garden bed will be set aside for children.
A goal for the Physical Improvement Committee is to improve the Hawley train station, with permission of the railroad. Briden said there has not been a lot of maintenance since it was built. They would also like to “dress it up” with more Victorian-era features such as gingerbread.
Among projects still ahead, is the development of a walking trail, which begins at Lake Wallenpaupack and extends through the borough. Biden said that they still have some hurdles to overcome, but the trail system, tied in with the Lackawaxen River Corridor, has big potential which will stimulate the economy.
Toby Cobrin chairs the Membership Committee, a relatively new group. Currently DHP has 118 members. The committee has worked on defining membership levels and dues structure. Pamphlets were created, one for prospective members and one for new members.
An invitation to join the DHP will be mailed to about 350 homeowners in Hawley, with 10 discount business coupons as an incentive to membership. She said that membership has slowly been increasing.
Gabrielson stated at the conclusion, “One of the points that has as its thread all the way through is volunteerism… Take this energy that you have… and even if its only one or two people, try and put that energy in that.” If you have skills that may help, he urged the members to step up and contact a committee chairperson. He urged them to spread the excitement in the community.
Applications for Project Coordinator are also welcome to assist with office administration, fundraising grants management and outreach.
For more information on the DHP and how to be involved, visit online at visithawleypa.org or call 570-226-4064. DHP is also on Facebook.