News for Immediate Release
Oct. 11, 2013
Benezette Township, Elk County – Governor Tom Corbett visited the Elk Country Visitor Center in Elk County last night to highlight the Pennsylvania Wilds as a top destination for travelers and mark 100 years since elk were reintroduced into the region.
“Unique tourist destinations like the Elk Country Visitor Center support Pennsylvania’s tourism industry and help create and sustain local jobs,” Corbett said. “Attendance at the center has grown to 200,000 tourists annually, each spending money and supporting local small businesses.”
The Elk Country Visitor Center is nestled on 245-acres owned by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in Benezette. The non-profit Keystone Elk Country Alliance (KECA), a Pennsylvania-based wildlife conservation organization, operates the center using money raised from the private sector.
Elk were hunted to extinction in the late 1800s; in 1913, the Pennsylvania Game Commission began an effort to improve habitat and reintroduce them. Pennsylvania’s elk herd now contains more than 800 animals – the largest elk herd in the northeastern United States.
“Seeing these magnificent elk in their natural habitat is a truly amazing experience,” Corbett said. “We are fortunate to have a vast state with an abundance of outdoor tourism and wildlife watching opportunities.”
Fall is the peak season for viewing elk in the Pennsylvania Wilds because the mating season, or “rut,” occurs, and bugling bulls can be heard throughout elk country.
The center, however, 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 rides; year-round restrooms; and parking for cars, RVs and buses.
DCNR currently is finalizing a 35-year agreement with the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, which has doubled its staff over the past several years.
"At the Elk Country Visitor Center we provide a clear, consistent conservation education message and a quality elk viewing experience,” KECA President and CEO Rawley Cogan said. “Our business partners provide the amenities our guests need, such as great food and lodging, so that together we deliver the highest quality Pennsylvania elk country experience."
Nine jobs were created to operate the 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 popped up – all with an elk theme; and local stores and restaurants are expanding.
Accompanying the governor during his visit today were representatives of the newly established Benezette Wines and Wapiti Woods, which will be expanding its guest cabin and lodging business in Benezette Township from six to 10 cabins creating three new jobs.
For more information about the Elk Country Visitor Center, visit www.ElkCountryVisitorCenter.com or call 814-787-5167.
To learn more about the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, go to www.experienceelkcountry.com.
Media contact: Christine Cronkright, Governor’s Press Office, 717-783-1116
Christina Novak, DCNR, 717-772-9101