PA Wilds Center meets with rural development practitioners, shares how region is avoiding ‘The Amenity Trap’

PA Wilds Center meets with rural development practitioners, shares how region is avoiding ‘The Amenity Trap’


The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center) took part in the Open Field session on July 11 with Aspen Institute and Headwaters Economics and other fellow rural development practitioners from across the country, talking about how to use outdoor recreation to grow sustainable, healthy livelihoods for families and new economic futures for Pennsylvania’s most rural region.

“The session was spurred by two excellent new reports by Aspen Institute’s Community Strategies Group and Headwaters Economics. The reports focused on what they called ‘the amenity trap,’ or the paradox of a place with natural attractions that make it a great place to live and visit, but also threaten it with being ‘loved to death,’” said Ta Enos, founder and CEO of the PA Wilds Center. 

Here are some things that the PA Wilds Center (and the many other partners at the table in this work!) are doing to avoid the “amenity trap:” 


20+ years of diverse partnerships

From the very start of the formation of the Pennsylvania Wilds (PA Wilds) as a conservation landscape and a designated tourism region in 2003, state departments such as the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the PA Department of Community and Economic Development were thinking about how to best serve this region. Although the work has now shifted from the state-level to the nonprofit sector with the PA Wilds Center, those state partners are still vitally important. This is generational work, and the PA Wilds Center is proud to say that multiple governors from both sides of the aisle have continued to nourish those statewide partnerships.

The work of the PA Wilds Center simply could not happen without the PA Wilds Planning Team. The PA Wilds Planning Team is one of the largest and longest-standing governance structures around the PA Wilds effort. It was formed in 2006 through a groundbreaking Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement (ICA), the largest geographically of its kind in Pennsylvania. The ICA brings together the region’s county governments, typically through representation of the county planner, the region’s four Economic Development Districts, two Heritage Areas, visitor bureaus, PA Wilds Center, conservation partners and others to work on regional planning issues related to outdoor recreation development.

The Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania itself is another partnership within the PA Wilds Center. The WCO is a value chain network of more than 500 creative entrepreneurs, organizations and communities based in the PA Wilds, a premier outdoor recreation destination. Together, these entrepreneurs help meet PA Wilds market demands by connecting and scaling the unique establishments and producers that are central to this place-based tourism development. As the WCO helps people find PA Wilds-made products, services and experiences, local businesses and communities grow and thrive.

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts is another statewide partner that supports the PA Wilds’ efforts, especially in relation to regional artisans in the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania. Public art is central to place-making and telling our region’s story, and local artists, with their authentic handcrafted products, have provided a way for visitors to “take home a piece of the PA Wilds” while giving a boost to the local economy.

The PA Wilds Center also partners with other like-minded organizations throughout the 13-county region such as the following: county and community Chambers of Commerce, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), Local Development Districts (LDDs), Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), and charitable foundations. 


Developed a locally informed entrepreneurial ecosystem that connects and intentionally drives investment toward rural small businesses involved in this growing sector

The backbone of the PA Wilds Center’s ecosystem is the aforementioned free rural value chain, the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania (, now 500+ members strong! Many different kinds of businesses and organizations participate in the WCO, from the service sector to makers and producers to manufacturers of outdoor products to creative services firms and resource partners. 

Value chains are remarkable economic development frameworks that speak to self-interest while also serving a greater good. As the Aspen Institute’s Community Strategies Group puts it (their WealthWorks value chain model is probably one of the best known nationally), a value chain is “a network of people, businesses, organizations, and agencies addressing a market opportunity to meet demand for specific products or services — advancing self-interest while building rooted local and regional wealth.” 


Creating free, locally informed tools and resources to help protect and steward the region’s natural assets and unique community character

Examples of these resources include the PA Wilds Brand Principles (which follows the PA Wilds Declaration of Principles); PA Wilds Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship; and Leave No Trace Tourism Partnership.

The PA Wilds Licensing Program provides a way for businesses and organizations to apply to use the PA Wilds logo on merchandise and marketing materials to help them bolster their business and community development efforts. The PA Wilds branding guidelines ensure that the logo is being used in a respected way and that the licensee is following the spirit of the guiding PA Wilds Declaration of Principles.

Too often, development comes at the expense of scenic quality, natural resource preservation, and individual community character. Early, strategic and coordinated regional planning for new development will protect the authentic character and lifestyle of the PA Wilds. The PA Wilds Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship is a voluntary planning document that highlights how communities in the PA Wilds can protect or enhance their unique community character as they grow – whether that growth is due to tourism, other economic development planning, resource extraction or other industries.

The PA Wilds Center and Leave No Trace have developed a meaningful partnership to promote sustainable tourism practices in our rural region. Organizations located in the PA Wilds that are interested in learning more about helping outdoor explorers practice the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace are encouraged to become a PA Wilds Leave No Trace Partner.

“The staff of the PA Wilds Center live and work in this region, so this is our home too. Many of us were born and raised here. We know that this area has been historically underserved, and we’re passionate about expanding opportunities that develop these outdoor recreation spaces without losing the things that make our PA Wilds region so special,” explains Enos. “When we talk about rural development and economic growth, we mean sustainable development that is focused on meeting the needs of the residents who live here, not just the visitors. When we make the PA Wilds a more enjoyable place to live and grow your family’s roots and develop businesses here, visitor spending and tourism naturally grows alongside it.”

Enos noted that PA Wilds Center is proud to be part of the conversation led by Aspen and Headwaters, adding “This is generational work, and it takes time. The work is organic. It is not a one-and-done solution, but rather a steady vigilance.”



The Pennsylvania Wilds is a 13-county region that includes the counties of Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Warren, and northern Centre. The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc., is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to integrate conservation and economic development in a way that inspires the communities of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The PA Wilds Center promotes the region and its 2+ million acres of public lands as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, inspire stewardship, attract investment, retain population and improve quality of life. The PA Wilds Center’s core programs seek to help businesses leverage the PA Wilds brand and connect with new market opportunities, including: the Wilds Cooperative of PA, a network of more than 575 place-based businesses and organizations, and the PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a retail outlet primarily featuring products sourced from the WCO. For more information on the PA Wilds Center, visit To learn more about the WCO, visit Explore the PA Wilds at Find regionally made products at


Media Contact:

Britt Madera | PA Wilds Center Communications Manager

570-948-1051 | [email protected]

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