McKean County and Smethport Borough Recognized for Government Leadership

Smethport Web — by Nathan Muller

More than 160 business and community leaders from across the Pennsylvania Wilds region gathered Wednesday evening at the Red Fern in St. Marys for an update on the PA Wilds Initiative and to honor 14 local organizations and individuals for outstanding work in sustainable tourism development.

The event included comments by Rick Allan, Secretary of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and Carolyn Newhouse, Dep. Sec. for Innovation & Investment at the Department of Community & Economic Development. The effort to grow the region’s nature and heritage tourism industry has spanned three governors; DCNR and DCED are the two main state partners involved in the effort.

The evening ended with 14 individuals, businesses and organizations being named 2012 Champions of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The winners were given plaques, citations by their state senators and certificates of recognition by Congressman Glenn Thompson, a longtime supporter of the PA Wilds.

Four awards went to McKean County: Jerry Clark of Sign Design of Westline snagged a Great Design Award; Kinzua Bridge State Park garnered a Great Places Award; the Inspiring Youth Award went to Dr. William Schumann and his students at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford; and McKean County Commissioners and Smethport Borough brought home a Government Leadership Award.

Recognizing their leadership, Pennsylvania Wilds said of McKean County and Smethport Borough:

McKean County and Smethport Borough have stepped up to the plate to address a challenge: how to preserve and improve several historic buildings on county land and its 4H/fairgrounds complex and to do so with a vision in mind to link these properties with a community trail system through the Borough. In 2010, with the involvement of multiple stakeholders, the county and borough jointly commissioned and led a planning process carried out by Pashek Associates that gave rise to a blueprint for enhancing community recreation, wellness, and economic development opportunities in and around Smethport Borough.

It is always a tall order to integrate the goals of multiple agencies and properties into an overarching plan, but that is exactly what leaders in McKean County set out to do. DCNR’s Keystone grant dollars funded the effort and the result was the “Smethport Trail Study and County Park Master Plan.” This work, in conjunction with the McKean County Greenways and Trails Plan, provides recommendations for establishing a corridor of conservation land and recreational open space, and assesses ways to link this corridor to nearby trail systems and parks to create an interconnected greenway system. Proposed implementation projects are also consistent with the goals of McKean County’s recently completed Comprehensive Plan.

With a solid plan in place, the county, borough, trail partners and other stakeholders have an exciting vision to rally around and they are now putting their collective energies together to make it a reality. We applaud them for their vision and outstanding planning efforts and look forward to seeing the results in coming years.

The PA Wilds Initiative is a public-private effort that aims to grow the nature and heritage tourism industry across 12 ½ counties of rural PA as a way to create jobs, diversify local economies, inspire stewardship and improve quality of life. Dozens of federal, state and local partners from the public and private sectors are involved in the effort.