The Keystone Trails Association has taken a hike — to Mechanicsburg.
Tracing its roots to 1956, the nonprofit advocacy group works to protect and promote Pennsylvania’s hiking trails.
The group moved its headquarters to Cumberland County late last month, after learning in December that it would be losing its lease at its longtime North Front Street office in Harrisburg.
“It was a blessing in disguise, absolutely,” KTA Executive Director Joe Neville said.
That’s because the transition took KTA from a third-floor office in a downtown setting with no parking, to a storefront location with free parking in the heart of a pedestrian-friendly borough with many small businesses.
“For years, we didn’t have any foot traffic, zero,” Neville said of the Harrisburg office. The infrequent visitor might end up shelling out cash for parking blocks away just to pop in and pick up maps and literature.
KTA’s new office, at 46 E. Main St., Mechanicsburg, is changing that.
“We’ve already had walk-in traffic,” Neville said.
The association also has a storefront display area to arrange maps and guidebooks, and to offer hiking advice for visitors.
Operationally, the space also gives KTA three to four times as much space as it had in Harrisburg, including storage, and room for board meetings, open houses and club meetings.
But that doesn’t mean the transition was without stress, as KTA wasn’t initially sure where to head. The search was difficult at first, and Neville would have been happy with even an attic office.
“When you’ve lost your lease, you’re just thinking, ‘I need to go somewhere,'” he said.
A Mechanicsburg resident, Neville started to look at properties around town. Passing by Larsen Meadworks‘ West Main Street location, Neville exchanged a wave with a man inside and was inspired to stop in for a visit.
It led to an epiphany: Could KTA benefit from the same kind of plate-glass treatment?
The answer, it’s emerging, is yes.
More than that, though, Neville said being in the borough puts KTA close to several community events where he believes the organization’s message will find a receptive audience, such as Earth Day and June’s Jubilee Day street fair.
The feeling seems to be mutual.
“I think they’re a wonderful addition,” said Rebecca R. Yearick, downtown program services manager for the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities.
The location formerly housed a photo studio, she added.
Yearick said the move was especially appropriate, as it puts KTA in proximity to complementary groups, such as Cumberland County Trail Connections, helping promote cooperation toward greater connectivity among trail users and advocates.
It also places KTA near one of the nation’s most well-known paths.
“Main Street turns into Trindle Road, and Trindle Road crosses the Appalachian Trail,” Yearick said. “How great is that?”