New Opportunities to Expand Nature Tourism Abound in PA Wilds

Governor awards $110,000 in grants to help tourists learn about region, make reservations

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ — Governor Edward G. Rendell said today the state is looking at ways to match the vast outdoor resources with recreational activities that could attract additional visitors to the 12 northern counties called “Pennsylvania Wilds,” while continuing to protect its natural resources.

The Governor also announced the award of $110,000 in grants to help tourists book hotels and restaurant reservations in the region.

“We have seen that there is great potential for expanding and promoting nature tourism here,” Governor Rendell told members of the PA Wilds Task Force. “At the same time, we want to protect this valuable natural resource for generations to come.”

Governor Rendell said an analysis by Fermata Inc., a Texas-based company specializing in the development of strategic tourism initiatives involving natural and cultural resources, found an untapped potential for expanding and promoting nature tourism in the area.

“While many people are passionate about outdoor recreation, this study shows that this region is not yet a top destination,” Governor Rendell said. “With this information, we will be able to consider expanding and creating new activities and opportunities to bring more people to the Pennsylvania Wilds so they can enjoy the great outdoor experiences that await them.”

This was the fourth meeting of the Governor’s Task Force on the Pennsylvania Wilds. The group’s mission is to examine how the region’s public lands can better advance local economies, while also protecting its vast natural areas.

The report, Outdoor Recreation in the 21st Century: The Pennsylvania Wilds, looked at 41 outdoor recreations dependent on natural resources. The analysis found:

— Outdoor recreation is a passion shared by most Americans, but 50
percent of outdoor enthusiasts are only passively involved.
— Recreational preferences differ significantly between rural and urban
populations, and those activities enjoyed by people who live in urban
areas (wildlife viewing, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, visiting historic
places, scenic driving and horseback riding among others) represent
opportunities for future growth.
— Minorities, women and the elderly are underserved populations in the
outdoor recreation market.
— Outdoor enthusiasts interested in specialized recreation such as
water-based activities, wildlife watching and backpacking represent a
large market.
— Pennsylvania and its five surrounding states represent one of the
largest portions of the current outdoor recreation market.

The report is available at http://www.fermatainc.com/penn/ and will be used to develop a recreation plan for the Wilds by the end of this year.

“Through this process, we are identifying what recreational activities people are interested in, matching that with our Wilds resources, and creating new opportunities to bring more people to this beautiful part of Pennsylvania,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Michael DiBerardinis said.

While the entire PA Wilds will benefit from the grants announced by the Governor, the destinations directly affected by their award include the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania at Pine Creek Gorge in Tioga County, Dark Sky Preserve at Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County, Gobbler’s Knob in Jefferson County and the Allegheny National Forest in McKean and Warren counties.

The commonwealth applied for the grants on behalf of the Pennsylvania Wilds. Of the $110,000 total, $50,000 is from the Appalachian Regional Commission, $40,000 is from the Pennsylvania Tourism Office and $20,000 is from the organization representing the seven convention and visitors’ bureaus in the area.

The Wilds covers Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga and Warren counties. It includes 27 state parks and 1.5 million acres of state forest and game lands, the Allegheny National Forest, Pine Creek Gorge, the largest elk herd in the northeast U.S. and the darkest nighttime skies at Cherry Springs State Park.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Wilds, visit http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/ and select PA Wilds under “Hot Topics.” For Pennsylvania tourism opportunities, go to visitpa.com.

The Rendell Administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell’s initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit his Web site at: http://www.governor.state.pa.us/.

Related Articles