Gov. Corbett signs long-term agreement for public/private partnership at Elk Country Visitor Center in Pennsylvania Wilds
Governor Tom Corbett signed a 35-year agreement with the non-profit Keystone Elk Country Alliance (KECA) for operation of Elk Country Visitor Center in Elk County, cementing a public/private partnership that was begun before the center first opened in 2010.
The Elk Country Visitor Center is nestled on 245-acres owned by DCNR in Benezette. KECA, a Pennsylvania-based wildlife conservation organization, operates the center without state funding. KECA raises operational revenue through services such as gift shop sales, theater tickets, wagon and sleigh rides and other special events.
“This is a great partnership between government and a non-profit organization to continue to improve and expand the resources and services that DCNR provides to our citizens, and ensure a quality visitor experience at the Elk Country Visitor Center,” Corbett said. “Our relationship with KECA is a true success story, as together, we have been able to improve wildlife habitat, educate the public about conservation, support tourism and create local jobs.”
The center is open year round and includes a 4-D story theater with special effects that explore the sight, smells and sounds of the area; interactive and interpretive exhibits; wildlife trails and viewing areas; wagon and sleigh rides; educational programming; and parking for cars, RVs and buses.
“The Keystone Elk Country Alliance is pleased and proud to partner with the Commonwealth to operate this world-class destination,” said Rawley Cogan, CEO Keystone Elk Country Alliance. “KECA’s educational and stewardship programs provide a clear and consistent conservation message and continue to attract more and more guests to Pennsylvania’s Elk Country. Local businesses continue to expand and create new jobs that fuel economic development in the region.”
The new agreement requires a significant capital investment by KECA, which has begun construction of an outdoor classroom to accommodate more educational programs and special events at the center.
Gov. Corbett visited the center in the fall, noting…”attendance at the center has grown to 350,000 tourists annually, each spending money and supporting local small businesses.”
Twelve jobs were created by KECA to operate the elk center. Its gift shop provides more than 60 small local vendors and artisans with a new market opportunity. The number of lodging establishments near the center has almost doubled; three wineries have opened—all with an elk theme; and local stores and restaurants are expanding.
Pennsylvania’s elk herd currently numbers more than 800 animals – the largest elk herd in the northeastern United States.
For more information about the Elk Country Visitor Center, visit here or call 814-787-5167. To learn more about the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, go here. For more information about DCNR visit here.
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