Leading up to 2020, tourism visitor spending followed a generally increasing trend in Lycoming and Union Counties. Similarly, tourism spending at the statewide level was steadily increasing annually before the pandemic. Average year-over-year growth prior to the pandemic was 3.8 percent in Lycoming County, 0.9 percent in Northumberland County, and 1.2 percent in Union County. While Snyder County also saw a one percent increase in average year-over-year growth in tourism visitor spending before the pandemic, it experienced a slight decrease the year prior to the pandemic. This was also the case for Columbia County. Tourism visitor spending in Montour County fluctuated between 2017 and 2019. Statewide, the average year-over-year growth for tourism visitor spending reached three percent before 2020.rnrnThe pandemic disrupted a large share of travel, causing a dip in visitor spending. In 2021, tourism largely rebounded in all six counties and statewide. In the most recent data, Columbia County had returned to 95.2 percent of pre-pandemic visitor spending. Additionally, Lycoming County had returned to 90.2 percent of pre-pandemic visitor spending. Montour County’s increase surpassed prior years, with 2021’s total being the highest on record. Northumberland County returned to 79.2 percent of 2019 levels, which is the lowest return of the six counties. Snyder and Union Counties returned to 94.2 percent and 94.7 percent of their pre-pandemic visitor spending totals, respectively.rnrnThe recovery in tourism spending in the region has been faster than the state as a whole, where 2021 spending stood at 82.6 percent of pre-pandemic spending. However, the region’s share of the statewide tourism spending total has remained between 2.4 percent and 2.6 percent.rn

Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation Establishments

The six-county region has 111 arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments as of 2022, a slight decrease from the previous year’s total of 114. Prior to the pandemic, the region saw a slight increase in the number of these establishments. Except for Columbia County, each county has seen a fluctuation in its number of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments between 2018 and 2022. At the state level, however, the number of these establishments has steadily increased within the same period.

While Lycoming County has the highest number of arts, entertainment, and recreation establishments in the region, Northumberland County has the highest number of employees working in these establishments as of 2022. The outbreak of COVID-19 prompted declines in arts, entertainment, and recreation employment throughout every county in the region, and statewide. Five of the region’s counties, and state as a whole, have since rebounded. Union County saw a 38.2 percent decrease in its arts, entertainment, and recreation employment between 2021 and 2022.

National Endowment for the Arts Funding

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) distributed a total of seven grants to the six-county region between 2019 and 2020. Counties that received NEA funding include Columbia, Lycoming, and Union Counties. In 2021, however, no grants were distributed by the NEA to any county in the region. Statewide, NEA funding most recently stood at $5.5 million spread across nearly 100 grants.

PA Council on the Arts Funding

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts distributed 43 grants to the six-county region in 2020-2021. The number of grants funded in the region has dropped, however, from 68 in 2019-2020 and 73 in 2018-2019. The total amount allocated increased for Columbia, Lycoming, and Union Counties. The total grant appropriation statewide has remained unchanged at $9,590,000.

Stream Quality

Two key parameters of water quality (pH, which is commonly used to measure acidity in water, and total dissolved solids) were analyzed. A pH of seven represents a neutral measurement. A value greater than seven indicates basic or alkaline conditions, and values less than seven indicate acidic conditions. The pH of natural waters is between 6.0 and 8.5. Any values less than 4.5 and above 9.5 tend to be severely damaging to ecosystems. The region’s eight monitoring stations within the Susquehanna River watershed tested at an average of 7.56 pH in the most recent year, or slightly more alkaline than neutral water. The average in 2022 is an increase from the previous year’s average of 7.30. It should be noted that data from monitoring stations in Columbia and Union Counties were not available, so they are not represented in the table below.

The concentration of total dissolved solids (TDS) is a measure of dissolved materials in water. These materials include sodium, calcium, magnesium, and others. Fresh water usually has TDS levels between 0 and 1,000 mg/L, dependent on the geography and contributing factors in the region. Values over 500 mg/L are considered elevated and can be unsuitable for drinking or household use. Although TDS is not considered a primary pollutant, water with a high TDS concentration may indicate elevated levels of ions such as aluminum, arsenic, copper, lead, nitrate, and others that do pose health concerns. Since 2018, TDS levels in the region’s waterways have consistently been near or below 200 mg/L, though in 2020 there was a slight increase from previous levels. As was the case with the previous table, monitoring stations in Columbia and Union Counties are not represented here.

Local and State Parks

The region is home to 163 parks, which include state parks, community parks, playgrounds, public pools, and similar public recreation facilities. Multi-year data was not available to analyze trends. The regional number of local and state parks per 10,000 residents was 5.4. Snyder County had a slightly higher number of parks relative to its population; the other five counties were all similar to each other in this measure.

State Farmland Preservation

State funds from the Bureau of Farmland Preservation are one source of resources to preserve agricultural lands. There is not a clear trend in the amount of state and county funds distributed to Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, and Union Counties by the Bureau of Farmland Preservation in recent years. However, in 2021, the amount of funds distributed to all six counties decreased from their 2020 totals except for Union County, which received a one percent increase.

Broadband Subscriptions

The FCC (2022) reports a strong relationship between broadband access and health outcomes, referring to digital equity as a “super” determinant of health. Therefore, fostering digital equity is vital among communities.rnrnTo better understand digital equity across the six-county region, the percentage of households with a smartphone and broadband internet subscriptions for 2021 was tracked. In the six-county region, total households with a smartphone have increased by 7.1 percent annually since 2017. Currently, Union County has the lowest percentage of households with a smartphone (about 69.8 percent) in the region. In contrast, 78.5 percent of households in Columbia County have a smartphone, the highest percentage in the region. Statewide, 82.0 percent of households have a smartphone, which is higher than any of the six counties.

Broadband internet subscriptions have increased in the six-county region by 3.5 percent annually since 2017. Lycoming County has the highest percentage of broadband internet subscriptions (83.7 percent), whereas Union County has the lowest percentage (about 75.9 percent). At the state level, broadband internet subscriptions have increased by 2.8 percent annually since 2017, reaching 85.8 percent in 2021.