Long recognized as a prime tourist destination, Jim Thorpe is a town that attracts visitors from far and wide to partake of its fine shops and restaurants, historical sites and excellent recreational facilities.

This week, the community of 4,804 residents, according to the 2000 census, was recognized nationally as one of the top five "most beautiful" small towns in America. That designation was bestowed by U.S.A. Today and Rand McNally, two respected corporations.

When you consider there are 18,443 towns in the United States, being considered among the nation's most beautiful is indeed a great honor.

Granted not every town was nominated. But of the small towns that were, a team of judges was dispatched for the final voting process.

On Wednesday, July 25, at 8 p.m. The Travel Channel will air a special program on the competition.

Although local folks often take their natural resources for granted, there's no argument that Jim Thorpe is worthy of special recognition. There's architectural beauty, fine restaurants, breathtaking scenery, great recreational facilities for all ages, and interesting historical sites.

The name of the town is in itself an attraction, being associated with one of America's greatest athletes.

Mayor Michael Sofranko said the history and sites and architecture are all great attributes to the town, but one of the things that makes the community special are the residents. He noted how diligently they maintain their properties, how friendly they are, and how they pull together to keep the community so beautiful.

It was that kind of community spirit that eventually led to the name change from Mauch Chunk to Jim Thorpe nearly 60 years ago. When Jim Thorpe, the great Olympian, died, he was penniless. The people of Mauch Chunk conducted a drive to have his body moved here and gave him an honorable final resting place with perpetual care.

They opened their hearts to a cause they believed in.

Back in 1955 when Jim Thorpe's body was brought here, there were plans for other special venues, including a hall of fame and a hospital, to honor the athlete but those plans didn't materialize.

Still, the residents of the community continued to fittingly honor the Native American athlete by keeping his monument in immaculate condition.

Our guess is that Jim Thorpe the athlete would be proud to have his final resting place in such a well-respected community.

The town reaped quite an honor and we should all be proud.

When was the last time you visited Jim Thorpe and toured the Asa Packer Mansion, St. John's Church, or the Old Jail? Have you taken the train or did you go river rafting? Have you paid a recent visit to the many small shops and restaurants in the downtown?

There's so much to see and do in Jim Thorpe. It's actually sad, sometimes, that usually it is the tourists who discover the many treasures within a community, and not the local folks.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com [1]