Earlier this month, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a 35-year agreement with the non-profit Keystone Elk Country Alliance for operation of the Elk Country Visitor Center in Elk County, cementing a public and private partnership that began before the center first opened in 2010.
The Elk Country Visitor Center is nestled on 245 acres owned by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in Benezette.
The alliance, a Pennsylvania-based wildlife conservation organization, operates the center without state funding. It 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 (the alliance) 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 of the 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