PA Wilds Partnership Honors Small Business, Individual Champions
More than 130 business and community leaders from across the Pennsylvania Wilds gathered Thursday evening to get an update on the state and local effort to grow the region’s outdoor recreation economy, and to honor 10 organizations and individuals for outstanding work in conservation and sustainable tourism development.
The annual dinner and awards banquet, now in its seventh year, is hosted by the PA Wilds Planning Team, a group comprised of planners from the region’s 12 county governments and other local, state and federal stakeholders from the public and private sectors.
The evening began with a video, “Celebrating Our Partners,” which captured how partnerships are at the heart of the PA Wilds movement.
The video was produced as a joint project by the PA Wilds Planning Team, PA Wilds Tourism Marketing Corp., and PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, three main organizations behind the regional effort to grow nature tourism, with funding support from Stackpole-Hall Foundation, DCED and DCNR.
Click Here to watch the video.
Outdoor recreation is big business in the U.S., according to a recent report from the American Outdoor Association. The money Americans spend on outdoor gear and on trips and travel to get outdoors accounts for an estimated 6.1 million jobs and $646 billion in consumer spending annually.
The industry has seen steady growth and is an increasingly important piece of the economic pie in the Pennsylvania Wilds, which boasts two million acres of public land, two National Wild & Scenic Rivers, the largest elk herd in the northeast, some of the darkest skies in the world and a National Forest.
Visitors spent an estimated 1.7 billion in the PA Wilds in 2011 – an 11.5 percent rate of growth that was the fourth highest among the state’s 11 tourism regions, according to the latest figures from the State Tourism Office, which were also cited in the video.
The event included remarks by Ellen Ferretti, Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and Carolyn Newhouse, Deputy Secretary for Innovation & Investment at the Department of Community & Economic Development.
DCNR and DCED are the two main state partners involved in the regional effort.
The evening ended with 10 individuals, businesses and organizations being named 2014 Champions of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The winners were given plaques, citations by their state legislators and certificates of recognition by Congressman Glenn Thompson.
“The PA Wilds Planning Team is proud to recognize the incredible work being done by so many local residents, businesses and organizations to grow our region’s nature and heritage tourism industry,” said PA Wilds Planning Team Chair Dan Glotz.
The award winners are:
-- Abbi Peters - Outstanding Leader Award: Abbi Peters is the Executive Director of the Elk County Council of the Arts, and was a founding member of the PA Wilds Artisan Trail. Her role in the Artisan Trail has been very broad. She's provided leadership to the project, mentored artists and trail sites, coordinated jury sessions, designed the Trail's traveling display, and has actively helped recruit new artists and trail sites.
-- Wildlife Center at Sinnemahoning State Park/Park Office - Great Places Award: Going Wild is now easier for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore the vast region north of Interstate-80 known as the PA WILDS. Over the past ten years, the Commonwealth has made major investments within the PA Wilds region. One of the recent completions is the six million dollar Wildlife Center and Park Office at Sinnemahoning State Park.
-- Eric Rensel - Conservation Stewardship Individual Award: Eric Rensel is a leader, conservationist and member of the DCNR Pennsylvania Wilds Recreation Team. Mr. Rensel has created not 1 but 2 significant Geocaching Trails that feature the region's conservation heritage and the work of the CCC.
-- Collins Pine Company - Kane Hardwoods Division - Conservation Stewardship Organization Award: Collins Pine Company is one of the largest private landowners in the PA Wilds Region with over 115,000 acres of timberland. All of the land is open to public use for camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding or any other non-motorized outdoor recreation use.
-- Blossburg Borough - Great Design Award: In response to oil and gas development and other factors impacting the community, Blossburg Borough in Tioga County, has developed a new Comprehensive Plan for their community.
-- Laughing Owl Press - Artisan of the Year Award: Laughing Owl Press was started in 2010 by Joe and Andrea Lanich after they moved back to the area. The Lanichs are active members of the PA Wilds Artisan Trail and Andrea participated on the Artisan Trail's team at the PA Wilds Workshop: Connecting Nature, Economy and Community Character.
-- Country Squirrel Outfitters, LLC - Business of the Year Award: Country Squirrel Outfitters owners Miranda and Steve Putt have recently opened their canoe, and kayak livery, and retail shop in Ridgway, PA.
-- Cameron County Conservation District - Inspiring Youth Award: The Cameron County Conservation District has developed a strong partnership with the school district and other youth and nature based clubs to help educate kids about the wonders of nature and how to protect it for future generations
-- Cameron County Canoe and Kayak Classic - Event of the Year Award: 2014 marked the 40th anniversary of the 12 mile long Cameron County Canoe and Kayak Classic. This event has grown from a small local event into a large race that attracts over 100 paddlers from across the United States.
-- Debbie Lunden - Member of the Year Award: Debbie Lunden has been a vital part of the Pennsylvania Wilds since the Planning Team was established in 2005. She believes in the PA Wilds so strongly, that when she retired in 2014, she accepted a nomination to continue serving on the planning team as a Partner so that she could remain actively involved.
The Pennsylvania Wilds region includes the counties of Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Cameron, Elk, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield and the northern part of Centre county.
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