Saturday, August 6, 2016

Potter County: Preliminary Denton Hill State Park Plan Released

Potter County Today
Challenges and opportunities are spelled out in a report on the future of Denton Hill State Park, part of a multi-year process to have the park revitalized and its ski resort resurrected. From a long-range perspective, the park’s future appears to be bright as long as the state is willing to invest in it. Officials this week posted initial results of an incremental planning process geared toward developing improved skiing and new off-season activities at the park. The preliminary Denton Hill State Park Master Plan is available on a section of the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources website, available here. Later this month, DCNR will select a consulting firm to guide the master planning process. A public meeting to discuss the scope of work is expected to be held before year’s end.
Initial studies found that the state would need to invest about $13 million to repair ski lifts, add lights, replace the snowmaking system, renovate the lodge, add parking and create a snow-tubing park. Additional investments may be required for development of spring, summer and autumn activities. Among options are lift-serviced mountain biking, zip lines, festivals, adventure races, geocaching and destination dining. The plan cautions that the skiing business will need to attract at least 12,500 visits per season to be profitable. Denton Hill has experienced sharp declines in visitation over the past 10 years, much of it due to warm weather but some attributed to skiers going elsewhere.

A local stakeholders committee headed by the Potter County Board of Commissioners is serving as the liaison with DCNR. One of the committee’s partners, the Potter County Visitors Assn. (PCVA), has launched a Save Denton Hill State Park site on the Facebook social media platform and signed up more than 2,000 supporters, with tens of thousands of “hits.” Among other coalition members are the Chambers of Commerce in Coudersport, Galeton and Wellsboro and the Pennsylvania Route 6 Alliance. They’re conferring frequently with elected officials and representatives of the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (both the State Parks and Forestry bureaus).

There is a lot at stake. A study of the ski resort’s impact found that visitors spent more than $2.74 million on their trips in a single year. Stakeholders see the park in bigger terms, suggesting that it be a hub for tourists that could complement local hiking trails, Cherry Springs and Lyman Run state parks, the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum and other local attractions. The partners would like to see not only restoration of ski operations, but development of the park as a year-round asset. DCNR engaged Moshier Studio, a Pittsburgh firm, to study Denton Hill State Park and prepare the initial report that was released this week. There will be no skiing at the park for the 2016-17 season and signs point to the closure extending through the 2017-18 season and beyond.