PA Wilds a finalist in national Build Back Better Regional Challenge

The rural Pennsylvania Wilds region is a finalist for up to $100M in investment to grow its outdoor recreation industry, officials announced on Monday, December 13, 2021.

A total of 529 communities across the country, representing all 50 states and five territories, submitted applications to the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA)’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge program to compete for the transformative investments, which aim to advance regional industry clusters and aid in pandemic recovery. Only 60 applicants were selected to move on to Phase II.

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Table of Contents

Project Overview

PA Wilds Center’s BBBRC application proposes five projects to support our region's important outdoor recreation industry cluster:

  1. strategic recreation infrastructure development
  2. workforce development
  3. entrepreneurial ecosystem expansion
  4. cluster sustainability and resilience
  5. profile raising to attract private investment

Read the PA Wilds Center's full concept paper here.


Full proposals were due March 15, 2022. A total of 20 to 30 of the regional coalition finalists will be selected for funding in September 2022. Successful applicants will have five years to complete their projects.

Coalition Partners

PA Wilds Center's BBBRC application includes six “Coalition Partners” that would spearhead recreation infrastructure construction projects and many other local organizations that would assist in carrying out the cluster development over the next five years through subcontracts with the PA Wilds Center.

This project relies on a broad coalition to achieve this holistic vision. The PA Wilds Center, the state’s designated lead nonprofit for the regional PA Wilds strategy, will serve as the lead applicant and hub, connecting key partners and spoke projects, and aligning visions to ensure economic development success.

PA Wilds Center is the Coalition Partner that will lead the Activation and Scale portions of the proposal (Projects 2-5), subcontracting with partner organizations.

Six Coalition Partners will implement the Construction aspect of the proposal (Project 1):

  1. The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)
  2. Jenks Township
  3. City of Warren
  4. Tioga County
  5. Armstrong Trails
  6. Keystone Elk Country Alliance

Matching Funds + Timeline

Partners have identified upwards of $15M matching funds from a variety of sources to include: State Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program; Act 13 Funds; Jenks Township General Fund; DCED Greenways, Trails, and Recreation program; DCNR Community Conservation Partnerships Program; PennDOT Transportation Alternatives Set Aside, PennDOT Multimodal Transportation Fund, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Google Ad Grants, PA Wilds Center, PA Wilds Planning Team.

Construction will be front-loaded to ensure implementation is completed ahead of the grant closeout deadline.

The Activation and Scale strategies will also start immediately but will be scheduled to take place throughout the five-year application window.

Press + Media Mentions

PA Wilds Build Back Better Regional Challenge Media Coverage Book

Utilize the PA Wilds Build Back Better Regional Challenge Media Mentions coverage book to get a quick snapshot of media coverage and reach, laid out in an easy-to-digest format with screenshots and simple metrics.

The PA Wilds Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) Media Mentions book provides a quick overview of the number of times the news about the region's BBBRC project has been featured online. Check out how many times it's been featured, how many impressions that story has had and how many times it has been engaged with -- all from one simple PDF!

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Submit Comments

If you have comments, questions or feedback that you would like to submit to the PA Wilds Center and the Coalition Partners involved in developing the PA Wilds Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant proposal, please use the form linked below and a member of the team will reply to your message as soon as possible.

About the American Rescue Plan Programs

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is one of many EDA programs aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.

American Rescue Plan funding enables EDA to provide larger, more transformational investments across the nation while utilizing its greatest strengths, including flexible funding to support community-led economic development. With an emphasis on equity, EDA investments made under the American Rescue Plan will directly benefit previously underserved communities impacted by COVID-19. For more information about EDA’s American Rescue Plan programs, visit

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration

The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. For more information about EDA, visit


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