2007-03-24 / Front Page

Elk viewing center gets 'green' light

The state is putting its financial muscle behind elk tourism for the region in a big way -- as in $5 million!

It will take the form of a massive elk-watching and education center near Benezette in Elk County. Plans for the facility, a joint project of the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, were confirmed this week by Gov. Ed Rendell.

The elk center reinforces the state's commitment to stoke the region's economy through the "Pennsylvania Wilds" tourism initiative. It comes on the heels of investments in the new Lyman Run State Park dam, the continued development of stargazing opportunities at Cherry Springs State Park, and plans for a $2.5 million visitor center at Sinnemahoning State Park.

Benezette's 7,000-squarefoot elk-viewing and education center will be accompanied by interpretive exhibits, wildlife trails and viewing blinds, along with restrooms and parking for vehicles and buses.

"This will give us additional opportunities to reach out to new visitors, give them a wonderful outdoor experience and share the story of the conservation efforts that have restored the elk herd, and many other natural and wild areas in Pennsylvania," Gov. Ed Rendell said.

He added that the elk already draw about 75,000 visitors each year.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will provide $2 million initially for the purchase of the land and the center's exhibits. The organization has also committed another $5.6 million over the next 30 years toward the center's operation.

A design plan will be developed by the end of this year, with the center opening in early- to mid-2009.

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