Bad times for a favorite hostel?
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Financial problems, provoked to some degree by the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, have closed some hostels across the United States.
But the non-profit hostel at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Cooke Township seems to have weathered the storm.
"The last three years have been a struggle," says Ta' Juanna Anderson, executive director of Delaware Valley Council for Hostelling International USA, "but it is coming back."
For $18 a night, one can get a bunk and access to a full kitchen, bathrooms with running water and even a piano. HI-USA members and members of the Appalachian Trail Club pay $15.
In comparison, a night at a typical hotel in the area costs $70 on weekdays.
The bunk rooms are separated by gender, but couples may request a suite.
"On the trail, you have to save money where you can," says hiker Roslyn Regnery from Atlanta.
"This is where we wind down, clean ourselves off and get to sleep in a bed," says her hiking partner, Casey Horrigan from Boston. The two, in their mid-20s, have been hiking from Georgia for three and a half months.
A sign on the front porch announces the 1,087 miles to both Mt. Katahdin in Maine and Springer Mountain in Georgia.
Co-manager Paul Humm, 35, says "this is our busy season," explaining the hostel had overnight stays almost every evening during the past month. Late spring and early summer see the greatest number of hikers on the Appalachian Trail.
Even so, co-manager Donna Spahr Rozycki says the hostel operated at just 25 percent capacity in the past month. About half of that consisted of hiker traffic.
The Pine Grove Furnace mansion - built in 1827 - has "special maintenance obligations," says Gary Smith, regional manager of the Pennsylvania State Park system.
These obligations pose a financial burden for HI-USA.
The age and distinctive quality of the mansion require upkeep and renovation, Smith says.
The exterior of the Ironmaster's Mansion hostel was renovated in the 1980s before the official hostel opening in 1983, and four interior rooms have been restored since then. Future refurbishing is expected.
Pine Grove State Park Manger Ken Boyles notes the funding problems and three managerial turnovers that have occurred in the last year at the hostel.
"Visitation has been sporadic," he says.