PA Wilds Design Guide Wins Award

EMPORIUM – The Pennsylvania WILDS Planning Team received recognition from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association for their efforts to assist communities to enhance their local character, protect natural resources and strengthen economic prosperity through sustainable tourism.

The Pennsylvania WILDS Design Guide: A Design Guide for Community Character Stewardship won a 2008 Planning Excellence Award from the state chapter of the American Planning Association. Members of the Pennsylvania WILDS Planning Team accepted the award at a ceremony in Pittsburgh earlier this month.

The Pennsylvania WILDS Planning Team is a 12-county partnership consisting of representatives from planning agencies, economic development groups, state and local government, and other community leaders from around the Pennsylvania WILDS. The Planning Team recognized the critical need to support the long-term success of the Pennsylvania WILDS initiative while strengthening local economic development and protecting community interests. To achieve this, the Planning Team undertook the task to provide a resource that could be used to guide new development in a manner that respects local traditions and represents the natural characteristics of the region.

The Design Guide rolled off the presses in 2008 after a year of input from around the region. The Guide is full of suggestions on how private and public landowners in the Pennsylvania WILDS can help protect their community’s character during times of growth. The Guide is meant to be a resource for people, businesses or organizations embarking on new construction, renovations, signage projects and the like. Several businesses and communities are already utilizing the Design Guide. All of the document’s guidelines are voluntary.

Brain O’Leary, chair of the APA-PA Chapter awards committee, said in a written statement that the Design Guide was chosen for a Certificate of Merit for a number of reasons. “It provided excellent design recommendations to a large rural area,” he said. It also included many non-regulatory recommendations for local communities, he said, and “helped establish a recognizable identity for this part of Pennsylvania.”

Speaking on behalf of the Pennsylvania WILDS Planning Team, chairman Jerry Walls said the Pennsylvania WILDS is known for its community character and natural resources, and being good stewards of those assets is fundamental to smart growth in the region. The APA award validates that thinking, he said. “It also confirms that the Design Guide concepts and recommendations are reasonable and appropriate for small scale villages and communities in rural Pennsylvania,” Walls said.

O’Leary noted that the Design Guide also had an education and outreach component. Walls explained that an outreach specialist, Kelly West, had just been hired to work with communities and businesses interested in using the Design Guide.

Free copies of the Design Guide can be downloaded or ordered on CD online. Kelly West can be reached at or 814-203-7638.

NOTE: The 12 counties of the PA WILDS are: Warren, McKean, Potter, Tioga, Forest, Elk, Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Clarion, Jefferson and Clearfield.

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