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Outdoors communicators introduced to classroom around them
They were billed as “Craft Improvement Sessions,” but the day easily could have been billed as “Welcome to the World of Pa. State Park and Forests in Southwestern Pa.” Members of the Pa. Outdoor Writers Association found a wealth of nearby learning aids.

For POWA members arriving early for their three-day spring conference, organizers had arranged a variety of outdoors activities that led almost all to sprawling state forestlands, a concentration of six state parks, and a rebounding river offering top-notch trout fishing. From conference headquarters at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Champion, Somerset County, attendees fanned out to hunt the wild turkey and seek brook trout in Forbes State Forest; fish state park lakes and streams; and fish and raft the Youghiogheny River right through Ohiopyle State Park.

That was Friday, May 15. The next day attendees moved into the classroom, where the instructors took them right outside again. Folks like:

Julie Donovan, vice president of public relations for the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, who invited her audience to come back to the natural areas that make her regions shine. She urged them to get on the newly formed “Laurel Highlands Trout Trail” that leads angles and others through a 70-mile section of trout-rich state forest, park and private land. Details can be found at

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Outdoors Editor John Hayes, who spoke on the “How-To of Reaching a Non-Hunting/Fishing Audience.” Noting Allegheny County is a leader in hunting and fishing license sales, and boat registrations, Hayes said he never has to look far for good copy. “With Forbes State Forest and so many state parks all around me, story ideas are endless,” he said.

And then there was Justin Sparklin, trout fishing guide and outfitter based at Seven Springs’ Grille at Sporting Clays, whose topic was “Demystifying Western Pa. Fly Hatches.” He led his listeners to the top trout streams and rivers in the Laurel Highlands, all flowing through state park or state forestlands—waterways like the Youghiogheny slicing through Ohiopyle State Park. “The water quality of the ‘Yough’ is getting better every day,” Sparklin said. “It has become an amazing river.”

So enthusiastic and thorough was Sparklin’s assessment of several wild brook trout streams tucked away in Forbes State Forest that one listening outdoors writer -- who frequented them often—was forced to suggest the speaker may have omitted something.

“Justin, you forgot something,” Fayette County resident Ben Moyer said, tongue firmly in cheek. “You never mentioned there are a lot of rattlesnakes in those areas.”

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May 20, 2015

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