PA Wilds Planning Team sees renovations at Leonard Harrison State Park
As part of an excursion following the PA Wilds Planning Team’s meeting on November 1 in Wellsboro, a park specialist from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) gave the group a tour of the new renovations at the nearby Leonard Harrison State Park.
Tim Morey, PA DCNR Natural Resource Program Specialist for the Hills Creek State Park Complex (which includes Leonard Harrison State Park), led members of the PA Wilds Planning Team to where the future visitor center is being constructed, which will be the new home of the PA Wilds Conservation Shop in 2024.
The Conservation Shop had formerly been located in a mobile unit at Leonard Harrison State Park, selling a limited supply of themed products that are created and designed by regional artisans in the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania network. The updated visitor center will provide more room for the Conservation Shop and a stock room, as well as a more cohesive experience for visitors who want to learn more about the PA Grand Canyon and the Pine Creek Valley.
Other major renovations include a larger parking lot with a significant number of new parking spaces and better accessibility. Safer walkways and a drop-off loop were also constructed.
Although some trees had to be removed to expand the parking, Mowrey says that DCNR staff are replanting other native trees to provide some consistency for the natural environment and visitors’ expectations.
“Tree removal was required to address the needs of the parking areas and meet modern design and water retention standards,” said Morey. “Several hundred trees and shrubs (all of various sizes and an assortment of native species) are being planted throughout the parking and construction area.”
Morey explained that, although the renovations might be inconvenient in the meantime, the work will be completed soon and will allow visitors to enjoy the PA Grand Canyon like never before.
“Not only will visitors be able to have a safer experience (because of the parking lot improvements), but they can have enhanced visitor services,” said Morey. “Trees and shrubs are being planted this fall and the building is expected to open for spring 2024.”
The tour of Leonard Harrison State Park concluded with a walk down some stairs to the overlook, which peers out over the Pine Creek Valley. In the gorge below, visitors can see the Pine Creek Rail Trail and the waters of the Pine Creek itself. Across the gorge, Colton Point State Park can be seen. As Mowrey pointed out, although the state park sees an incredible number of visitors for the fall foliage, the park is a beautiful place even after the leaves have fallen.
The PA Wilds Planning Team meeting itself took place earlier that day, at the Deane Center for Performing Arts in Wellsboro. The Deane Center is dedicated to providing a venue for programs and classes and offering exceptional arts and entertainment that nurture the diverse interests of Tioga County and the surrounding region for the benefit of the community and the performing arts. Although the bottom floor is where the theater performances take place, the upper floor can also be rented for meetings, such as the PA Wilds Planning Team did.
At the October/November meeting of the PA Wilds Planning Team, the team heard about recently received and upcoming grant funding in a report from the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship’s Founder and CEO, Ta Enos.
This included details on the EDA grant that will help provide funding for six planning studies over the next three years, including a planning study for the PA Wilds Planning Team itself. Learn more about the EDA grant here.
Ta Enos’ report also included information about the recently announced Appalachian Regional Commission Area Development grant. Among other things, the three-year investment will help the PA Wilds Center stand up its next two PA Wilds Conservation Shops, which are mission-driven gift shops that improve market access for rural entrepreneurs by sourcing 90 percent of their inventory from rural makers and businesses in the PA Wilds: moving the mobile unit to the upcoming visitor center at Leonard Harrison State Park and opening a new Conservation Shop in Jenks Township at a former railroad station along the Knox-Kane Rail Trail. Learn more about the ARC grant here.
The next PA Wilds Planning Team meeting will be held in December, with special focus on the accomplishments of the team in 2023 and a look forward to 2024.
ABOUT THE PA WILDS
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 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 over 300 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 www.PAWildsCenter.org. To learn more about the WCO, visit www.WildsCoPA.org. Explore the PA Wilds at www.PAWilds.com. Find regionally made products at www.ShopThePAWilds.com.
ABOUT 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.