2018-11-03 / Front Page

‘Denton Hill Adventure Center’ in the works

Sixty years have passed since Denton Hill State Park was carved out of 700 acres along Rt. 6 in central Potter County. Its main purpose was to attract skiers from far and near. Today, the park is being viewed as a four-season attraction with a new name proposed – Denton Hill Adventure Center. But the plan hinges on the state being able to lure a concessionaire to operate the facility.Sixty years have passed since Denton Hill State Park was carved out of 700 acres along Rt. 6 in central Potter County. Its main purpose was to attract skiers from far and near. Today, the park is being viewed as a four-season attraction with a new name proposed – Denton Hill Adventure Center. But the plan hinges on the state being able to lure a concessionaire to operate the facility.
A fifth winter will come and go with no skiing at Denton Hill State Park. However, there are signs that the state is moving forward with its long-term plan to establish the park as a four-season attraction.

Little has been said publicly since a meeting held last May, when Pa. Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) officials revealed that the park’s future depends largely on whether they can find a private partner to operate it as a four-season attraction.

In mid-December, the agency will hold a vendor forum at the park – which is now being referred to by DCNR as the “Denton Hill Adventure Center” – to allow prospective bidders to tour the facilities and meet with administrators.

Contractor LaBella Associates has developed a master plan that focuses on improvements, redesign and new infrastructure for skiing; overnight accommodations; year-round recreation development; and community partnerships.

Regardless of what happens next, DNCR officials have confirmed that the 2019-20 season will also likely pass with no skiing at the park.

During the May meeting, John Hallas, director of DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks, didn’t downplay the challenges and obstacles the state is facing. Chief among them is reaching terms with a private concessionaire.

Hallas also pointed out that $12 million in state funds were approved for park improvements back in 2013, but the master plan forecasts that costs will exceed $18 million.

Decisions on specific investments and attractions at the park will be based in large part by the private operator’s business plan. It’s not a lock that downhill skiing will ever return.

“That’s going to depend on whether a concessionaire can make a business case for it,” Hallas said. LaBella’s master plan calls for a significant investment in the ski area. The document includes replacing the two chair lifts with a single, larger chair lift. It would be complemented by smaller poma lifts. A lift would also be built for the snow tubing area, which would be expanded.

A multi-million-dollar snowmaking system would be installed and lighting for night skiing would be improved and expanded. Plans also call for the lodge to be rehabilitated and parking expanded.

Among options being explored for the spring through fall seasons are an aerial canopy course, zip lines, mountain bike flow trails, ropes and obstacle courses, a hiking and multi-use trail hub, and a designated area for festivals.

Denton Hill State Park was opened as a ski area in 1958 and was operated by the state until 1983, when DCNR signed a 35-year concession lease agreement with Denton Hill Family and Ski Resort Inc. The concessionaire notified DCNR just before the 2014-15 ski season that it was backing out.

Development of Denton Hill State Park as a four-season attraction has strong support from, among others, Potter County Commissioners Doug Morley, Susan Kefover and Paul Heimel.

Earlier this year, Morley said he was encouraged to see state officials supporting a broader plan to establish the park as the hub of a network of tourist attractions that could include Lyman Run and Cherry Springs state parks and the surrounding state forest.

“That’s the most logical location for it, right in the center of the county and right along Route 6,” Morley said.

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