Sixteen residents, business owners and local organizations were recognized for their efforts in sustaining tourism and development during the Pennsylvania Wilds Planning Team's annual briefing, held Thursday at the Diamond View Restaurant and Lounge in St. Marys.
Each year, the PA Wilds Planning Team, a guiding body for the Pennsylvania Wilds Initiative, gives out a small number of â€śChampion of the Pennsylvania Wildsâ€ť awards to recognize outstanding efforts related to the Initiativeâ€™s main components, including economic development, planning, community revitalization, community character stewardship and conservation.
Among those receiving this year's awards were Michelle Bogacki, manager for the Ridgway Main Street Program; Steve Kronenwetter, owner of Wapiti Woods Guest Cabins in Benezette; the Keystone Elk Country Alliance for the Elk Country Visitors Center; and Brenda Adams Weyant of the Clarion River Municipal Partnership.
"These award winners allow us to move our efforts forward," said Matt Quesenberry, chairman of the PA Wilds Planning Team.
The PA Wilds Initiative, a state-local collaborative effort, aims to grow the nature and heritage of the tourism industry across 12 counties of rural Pennsylvania as a way to help diversify local economies, revitalize communities and improve quality of life.
The Planning Team consists of more than 50 partners and stakeholders from across the PA Wilds, including county governments, economic development organizations, state and federal partners, and heritage and tourism organizations. The Wilds Region encompasses the counties of Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Lycoming, Clinton, Cameron, Forest, Jefferson, Elk, Clearfield, Clarion and northern Centre.
Award winners were recognized at the event and presented with wooden plaques which were designed and fabricated by Elkwood Arts in Ridgway, which is also a member of the PA Wilds Artisan Trail.