The many efforts and platforms of the Pennsylvania Wilds continue to be a resource for visitors, artisans, organizations and businesses.
The PA Wilds website, www.pawilds.com, is a major resource itself, giving visitors adventure ideas and places to visit throughout the 13-county region — which includes Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Elk, Cameron, Forest, Clearfield, Clarion, Jefferson and northern Centre counties — such as national wild and scenic rivers, the abundant wildlife, land and water trails outdoor recreation, the Allegheny National Forest and of course, the elk herd.
Currently, the website is featuring some of its fall foliage ideas and locations, like getting started on a “leaf peeping” tour, a popular activity which includes visitors viewing the best fall foliage spots in the PA Wilds, according to www.pawilds.com, offering road trip ideas like the 127-mile Elk Scenic Drive, the Bucktail Scenic Highway and Scenic Route 6, as well as local festivals like the Autumn Leaf Festival in Clarion.
Weekly fall foliage reports can be found at www.dcnr.pa.gov, the website notes.
Communications Director Lakeshia Knarr said besides the development of the new PA Wilds Marketplace platform, there are always plenty of resources to take advantage of.
The “PA Wilds Makers Market,” a virtual event started in the face of COVID-19, includes working with artisans in the WCO (Wilds Cooperative of PA) network, featuring livestreams of demonstrations, tours and interviews with artists, said Knarr.
“As well as a directory of virtual vendor booths with information on how to purchase their products,” she noted.
They spent three years developing Creative Makers of the PA Wilds Exhibit, a traveling platform that includes more than 300 images of more than 80 artists within the PA Wilds network, and will soon be permanently displayed at the PA Wilds Media Lab in Kane, expected to open next year, said Knarr.
The PA Wilds Conservation Shop, a partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, opened its flagship store at Kinzua Bridge State Park in 2016, said Knarr.
“It has sold more than $1.5 million over its first five years,” she said. “Ninety percent of the products sold at the shop come from members in our value chain — so that equates to about $750,000 in local impact dollars, as we purchase the products directly from our members at wholesale prices.”
The second shop, a mobile unit, was opened at Leonard Harrison State Park in June, and will grow into a brick-and-mortar store eventually. A satellite shop, partially managed by the Lycoming County Visitor Center, was opened in 2018.
It’s critical that the WCO continues to engage with new businesses, too, she noted. Those interested in learning more can visit www.wildscopa.org/about.