written by Herald-Standard reporter Mark Hofmann, and that the photograph was taken by Ben Moyer, for the Herald-Standard.
Depending on who you ask, anywhere between 12 and 37 people make Ohiopyle their year-round home – although that doesn’t mean that the borough isn’t booming.
Between the state park, the Great Allegheny Passage and other attractions, an estimated 1.5 million people visit the area every year.
Unfortunately, said borough officials, the steady stream of eager tourists contributes to overflow issues at Ohiopyle’s water treatment facility.
Mayor Mark McCarty said about 60% of the flow to the plant comes from the restrooms at Ohiopyle State Park, a sprawling 20,000-plus-acre attraction that brings in hikers, bikers, whitewater rafters and kayakers from the U.S. and abroad. Storm water also overloads the treatment facility, and is discharged into the Youghiogheny River.
“About 90% of (the discharge) is rain water,” McCarty said.
In 2011, the state Department of Environmental Protection placed a moratorium on new tap-ins to prevent the system being overwhelmed, but, officials said, that also prevents the borough from issuing building permits. That essentially means those who’d like to build a home in Ohiopyle or developers – including one interested in constructing a 50-room hotel – are out of luck.
“Without those tap-ins, people can’t build anything at Ohiopyle,” Conrad Hamather, borough council president, said.
Both Hamather and McCarty know it’s time for an upgrade, but that comes with an estimated $500,000 price tag.
Both also realize that with 12 full-time residents (McCarty’s estimate) or 37 (according to the 2020 Census figures), raising taxes to cover that isn’t an option – the tax base simply isn’t there – nor will it be until the moratorium on tap-ins is lifted.
Grants and other forms of state or federal funding are out there, but often require matching funding; to find that, borough officials decided to get creative.
On Saturday, Sept. 30, Ohiopyle will host Youghtoberfest from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Over 30 vendors – including breweries, eateries and artisans – will set up in the middle of the borough along Lincoln Street near the fire department. There will be $20 general admission cost.
Hamather said the community-run Spirit of the River Wine and Arts Festival already donates a portion of its proceeds to the expansion fund (about $15,000 last year), with the rest going to other area organizations. With Youghtoberfest, 100% of the proceeds will go into a special fund set up to expand the water treatment plant.
McCarty said he’s hopeful the unique fundraiser yields big results. During a May meeting with representatives from the DEP and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, borough officials were told that within five years, Ohiopyle would likely be in violation of overloading the system as use of the state park continues to expand.
“Since COVID, park use has really increased … and we’re limited on funding opportunities to support that infrastructure,” McCarty said.
That’s not to say that Ohiopyle officials are upset with the borough’s popularity.
In addition to being a fundraiser, Hamather said, Youghtoberfest is a celebration of the region, the people who come to and live in the area, and those who make the town special.
“We’re excited to have it and to see what the turnout is,” Hamather said, adding they don’t anticipate it being a one-time event. “We’re definitely looking at it as the first in many to come.”
Those who can’t attend but want to support the expansion effort can also donate at https://givebutter.com/Youghtoberfest23.
For more information on the event, including pricing options, visit the Youghtoberfest Facebook page.