The Champion of the Pennsylvania Wilds Awards celebrate individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and businesses that in the last year have made significant contributions to help grow and sustainably develop the outdoor recreation economy and nature tourism in the Pennsylvania Wilds in a way that creates jobs, diversifies local economies, inspires stewardship, and improves quality of life.
(PHOTO ABOVE: Dale Luthringer measuring trees. Photo by Tom DiStefano.)
Congratulations to three winners from Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors region:
Conservation Stewardship Award: Dale Luthringer – Cooksburg, Forest County
Dale Luthringer, an Environmental Education Specialist for Cook Forest State Park, was chosen for the 2022 Conservation Stewardship Award. Luthringer creates and leads teacher workshops and environmental education programs, with about 18,000 attending each year. He also conducts various forms of ecological research on topics such as acid mine reclamation, white-tailed deer populations, West Nile virus, old growth forest documentation, National Audubon Society SAP’s, Pennsylvania Herpetological Atlas, Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas, gypsy moth suppression, and hemlock wooly adelgid, among others. Luthringer also organizes various community educational and volunteer events such as the Woodsy Owl Workday, the Cook Forest Big Tree Extravaganza, and the Cook Forest French & Indian War Encampment.
Event of the Year Award: Groundhog Day – Punxsutawney, Jefferson County
The nationally known Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Jefferson County, was selected as PA Wilds’ 2022 Event of the Year. When it comes to rural tourism marketing, it’s hard to think of an event more wildly successful than Punxsutawney’s Groundhog Day. This small, otherwise unassuming town in western Pennsylvania has figured out how to take a nondescript animal you can see alongside any road just about anywhere in the eastern U.S., give it a magical backstory and turn it into an immortal celebrity with a signature event. Each year, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club organizes the February 2nd festivities that draw in up to 30,000 visitors. With those visitors comes an influx of tourism, with dollars being spent around the region on souvenirs, food, services, and hospitality.
Great Places Award: Twin Lakes Recreation Area – Wilcox, Elk County
Twin Lakes Recreation Area in Elk County was selected for the 2022 PA Wilds Great Places Award. Due to capacity and budget restraints, the Allegheny National Forest was originally going to close Twin Lakes. Friends of Twin Lakes saved the area and is now bringing in guests every weekend during camping and travel season. Twin lakes Recreation Area boasts a swimming area and bathhouse, picnic pavilion, campground, interpretive trails and a heavily stocked trout stream.
Twin Lakes Recreation Area, Allegheny National Forest in Elk County.
Find more things to do, see, and experience in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region online at VisitPAGO.com.