Oil Region National Heritage Area | The Valley that Changed the World


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Coronavirus Information and Resources

While information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to evolve, we encourage you to stay informed via the following resources.

As of Wednesday, July 22, the Oil Region Alliance staff will return to working remotely whenever possible. The office will remain closed to the public except by appointment and with proper masking and temperature checks. Contact information for each staff member is available here.

Questions concerning Oil Region Alliance procedures during the Coronavirus or any of the information contained here may be directed to Info@OilRegion.org.

As of July 1, Governor Wolf mandates “universal masking” for people leaving their homes. Get details from the following PDF.


Illustrated step-by-step tips for making a mask are available through this New York Times article.

Regular updates by the PA Department of Health can be found here.

A fact sheet produced by the Centers for Disease Control can be found here.

The Department of Labor’s explanation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act can be found here.

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to understanding the CARES Act can be found in the following PDF.

CARES ACT INFO (003) (1)

Who can work? Get the list of industries allowed to work during the shutdown as determined by Governor Wolf as of 5:45 p.m. March 21, 2020:
Industry Operation Guidance

Follow this link to the latest Mitigation Protocol by Governor Wolf, given December 10, 2020 and announced to be in effect until January 4, 2021.


The following PDF outlines Governor Wolf’s mitigation plan from March 12, 2020.

Governor Wolf COVID 19 PA Mitigation Protocol March 12, 2020

The U.S. Travel Association offers up-to-date information to prepare those traveling throughout the nation.

Visit their website here.

For our friends and partners in the hospitality industry, we recommend the support of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association

In November, The Primary Health Network partnered with the Venango Chamber to hold a town hall on the topic of “What Happens When COVID Collides With the Flu”.

Dr. George Garrow,  Primary Health Network’s Chief Medical Officer, talked with attendees on Zoom and Facebook Live about COVID-19. He covered details on precautions, testing, vaccinations, and more.

You can find the recording on Venango Chamber’s YouTube channel at: YouTube.com/VenangoChamber.

Here’s the latest.

Retirement Ceremony for ORA VP Marilyn Black Now Streaming

A ceremony recognizing the career and retirement of Oil Region Alliance Vice President of Heritage Development Marilyn Black is now streaming on the ORA YouTube channel here.

Black retired June 11, 2020 and was supposed to be recognized during the ORA annual meeting scheduled for September. However, the pandemic caused the meeting to be canceled.

Government officials gathered November 19 at the Tarbell House in Titusville (in compliance with all COVID safety protocols) to honor Black with citations and remarks. The ceremony was recorded by The Stream Media and is now streaming on the ORA YouTube channel and being broadcast on local cable television.

The ceremony includes acknowledgements from Congressmen Thompson and Kelly, Senators Hutchinson and Brooks, Representative James, Venango County Commissioners, Oil City and Titusville mayors, ORA board chairman Dr. Cressman and ORA President and CEO John R. Phillips, II.

Black also took to the podium to express her thanks for the well wishes and to reflect on her time with the ORA.

A small in-person celebration was held with the ORA board of directors in the spring at which June 13 was declared “Marilyn Black Day” in Oil City by Mayor William Moon.

During her time in Heritage Development, Black served as vice president, program manager, planner, executive director, grant writer, project manager, and supervisor. Some of her most notable achievements are her work on the designation of the Oil Region National Heritage Area and the preservation of notable properties including the Tarbell House, Coal Oil Johnny House, and Neilltown Church.

Black continues to contribute articles and photographs to PA Magazine, PA Angler and Boater Magazine, and Recreation News and is enjoying her hobbies of fishing, boating, hiking, biking and bird watching in retirement.

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Winners of ORA Get on the Trail Business Plan Contest Announced

Three new recreation opportunities in the region are a little richer today, thanks to the Get on the Trail Business Plan Contest.

The contest, run by the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry and Tourism, was open to new or existing businesses within the Oil Region, Foxburg, and Parker. Contestant concepts had to demonstrate ways to improve recreational opportunities along or near the area’s trail network.

The winners are:

  • Allegheny River Rentals who received $2,500 for a plan to purchase and maintain a fleet of E-Bicycles to start a rental program. Bicycles would be loaned to Two Mile Run County Park for the 2021 mountain bike season to test the viability of E-Bike rentals in Venango County.
  • Trailasana who received $2,500 for a plan to provide another option for outdoor recreation in the form of Paddleboard Yoga.  Funds would be applied to equipment expenses including paddleboards, paddles, and anchors.
  • Valerie Perry who received $5,000 for a plan for ‘Oil Region Food Tours’.  Food Tours are typically a 2-3 hour experience that combines a walking tour of a destination with food and drink tastings at 5-7 establishments.  Trail users who overnight in Franklin will likely have only one day to sample all that this town has to offer. While it would be impossible to taste all the culinary goodness of Franklin in a single day, Oil Region Food Tours would let participants sample several different restaurants while giving an overview of the history and attractions in the rest of the town.

“We’re excited for these new opportunities in the Oil Region and applaud their potential to expand our local economy,” said contest organizer Kim Harris, Oil Region Alliance Project Manager.

Winners were announced Friday during the Christmas Past festivities in downtown Oil City. ORA President and CEO John R. Phillips, II and Harris spoke at the ceremony along with Venango County Commissioners Mike Dulaney and Sam Breene.

The contest has been graciously funded by the County of Venango with Act 13 funds for the last five years.

If these business plans spark inspiration in you, stay tuned to OilRegion.org and the ORA’s Facebook page for details about the next contest coming in 2021.

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Oil Region Alliance Seeks Public Feedback Via Survey on National Heritage Area for Strategic Plan

The Oil Region Alliance (ORA) is conducting an online survey now through October 21 to get the public’s opinion on the Oil Region National Heritage Area (ORNHA), which will inform a Strategic Plan to guide the region’s management.

The ORNHA, which consists of all of Venango County and the City of Titusville, Hydetown Borough and Oil Creek Township in Crawford County, is managed by the ORA. The ORA focuses on natural and cultural preservation, historic interpretation and education, tourism, and economic development.

Through the consultant firm of The Walker Collaborative, the ORA is developing a Strategic Plan that will guide the focus and activities of the ORA moving forward. Members of the firm have already visited the region, met with stakeholders, and held two virtual public meetings in early September.

“The updated plan will factor in accomplishments of earlier recommended projects, changing economic factors, feasibility considerations, and other relevant issues,” said Jenn Burden, ORA Heritage Program Manager. “Public input for the Strategic Plan is needed to make the report successful.”

Now anyone can take the survey and provide feedback on topics including the natural environment, outdoor recreation and trails, how history is interpreted, development of  historic buildings, tourism features such as shops, restaurants and lodging, and the best asset of the ORNHA.

Take the survey here.

It only takes about 10 minutes to complete and is anonymous. Feel free to share the link with others. The more responses, the better.

The survey closes Wednesday, October 21.

The information collected through the survey will be consolidated by the consultants and reviewed during the next round of public meetings in late October.

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Public Input Requested for Oil Region National Heritage Area

Oil City, PA – The public is invited to provide input in two virtual meetings for the Oil Region National Heritage Area (ORNHA) Strategic Plan Wednesday, Sept. 2 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The Oil Region Alliance (ORA), managing entity of the ORNHA, is working on a Strategic Plan that will guide future projects, policies, and decisions over the next several years in accordance with legislation authorizing the ORNHA and the PA Department of Conservation and National Resources (DCNR) Heritage Areas Program.

“The updated plan will factor in accomplishments of earlier recommended projects, changing economic factors, feasibility considerations, and other relevant issues,” said Jenn Burden, ORA Heritage Program Manager. “Public input for the Strategic Plan is needed to make the report successful.”

To avoid issues with COVID-19, the meetings will be held virtually via Zoom. Anyone wishing to participate in either meeting should follow this link to register or e-mail jgorman@oilregion.org by noon Tuesday, Sept. 1 to receive a link to attend.

“The purpose of these meetings is to introduce ORA staff and consultants completing the project, to provide an overview of the Strategic Plan’s intent and process, and to solicit public input on topics relevant to the project,” Burden said.

After these meetings, a public survey will be distributed online and available in hard copy from the ORA office at 217 Elm Street, Oil City. The results of the survey, which will be based upon the discussions at the public meetings, will further guide the findings for the Strategic Plan.

The public meetings and survey are opportunities for Oil Region community members to participate in guiding the future direction of the Oil Region National Heritage Area. Please contact Jenn Burden with questions or comments at 814-677-3152.

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ORA Promotes Two Staff Members

The Oil Region Alliance recently promoted two staff members to new roles.

Selina Pedi, who began with the ORA in May 2019 as the part-time Blueprint Communities Coordinator for the Allegheny Clarion River Valley Region, will now serve as the full-time Redevelopment Manager. Jennifer Burden, who has been with the ORA since January 2018 as the Historian Educator, is taking over as Heritage Program Manager.

“These promotions demonstrate the Oil Region Alliance’s commitment to improving the quality of life and economic development of our area in addition to our contribution to enhancing our status as a National Heritage Area,” said ORA President and CEO John R. Phillips, II. “Professional development opportunities like these are key for my entire team.”

Pedi will continue to manage the Blueprint Communities program within her position, but she will be devoting a large portion of her time to develop the ORA’s new brownfield redevelopment program. She will be the liaison with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with support from Phillips.

“She is exploring some workforce training dollars through EPA for underemployed people in green industries through a little known program, so it’s very exciting what possibilities can come from our new grant relationship with EPA,” said Phillips.

Pedi’s promotion coincides with the ORA’s recent receipt of a $300,000 Community-Wide Assessment Grant from the EPA to assess and redevelop several brownfields along the Allegheny River.  The ORA’s testing and assessment of brownfield sites will start in October and continue through 2023 with grant writing for cleanup and redevelopment efforts ongoing throughout.

She will continue to be based in the AC Valley, but will work on Brownfields throughout the Oil Region National Heritage Area.

Pedi holds an Agribusiness Management degree from Penn State University and is currently a master’s degree candidate in Sustainability at Harvard University, with a focus on Community Resilience and Green Building.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to honor the spirit of innovation that gave birth to the Oil Heritage Region and carry it forward into a new era, learning from the mistakes of the past and building our communities ever stronger and more prosperous,” Pedi said.

With the retirement of Marilyn Black, Vice President for Heritage Development in June, Burden has taken over the Heritage Program. She is responsible for all grant administration, budgeting and programming for the heritage arm of the ORA, which includes oversight of historic properties, education and preservation efforts.

Burden will be the liaison with the National Park Service (NPS), PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR), Heritage PA, and the Alliance of National Heritage Areas (ANHA) with Phillips’ support. They are constantly working toward the Heritage Area’s reauthorization and funding for long term sustainability of the ORA and all National Heritage Areas.

Most immediately, Burden is spearheading the Heritage Area’s Strategic Plan, which will outline and prioritize the heritage activities for years to come.

“Our designation as one of only 55 National Heritage Areas in the country is significant,” said Phillips. “And I am pleased to have Jenn’s experience at the helm of this integral component to our mission.”

Burden holds a History degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master’s in Historic Preservation from Ball State University.

“I’m excited to lead the charge in taking the Oil Region National Heritage Area on new adventures and spreading the word about our significant history and unique opportunities,” Burden said.

In a year of unprecedented events, the Oil Region Alliance continues to pursue its mission “to increase the prosperity of the Oil Region by enticing people to live, work, learn and play in ‘the Valley that Changed the World’ through preservation, promotion, development, and support of historical, educational, natural, recreational, residential, commercial, and industrial destinations.”

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Oil Region Featured in Alliance of National Heritage Areas Newsletter

The Alliance of National Heritage Areas recently featured the Oil Region and its recognition of Chief Cornplanter in their newsletter, Heart & Soul.

You can check out the full article on page 5 along with the rest of the newsletter in the following PDF:

ANHA_Heart & Soul_July 2020


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ORA Announces Mini Grant for Tourism Rack Card and Brochure Printing

The Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry and Tourism is offering mini grants for printing brochures and rack cards for tourism destinations in the Oil Region.

Both non-profits such as museums and for profits like shops and restaurants are welcome to apply for half the cost of printing a brochure or rack card up to $500. Applicants are required to match the cost. Only one grant may be awarded per cycle per location.

To apply, submit a final copy of the product to be printed (with the acknowledgment of funding support by the ORA specified in the rules,) a copy of the quote or proposal for the printing cost, and a completed W-9 and application. Rules and applications are available at the ORA office at 217 Elm Street, Oil City and online on this page.2020 Mini Grant Application FINAL

Applications are due by Friday, March 13, 2020 in hard copy form to the ORA office or via e-mail to Emily Altomare at ealtomare@oilregion.org.

The ORA will respond to applicants by Friday, March 20, 2020.

The Oil Region Alliance must review and approve all materials before they are printed and reserves the right to not fund the grant if the final product does not adhere to the guidelines.

Printing should be completed and stock should be delivered to the ORA office by Friday, May 1, 2020 for distribution throughout the Oil Region, which includes all of Venango County and sites in Titusville and Foxburg.

Questions can be directed to Emily Altomare at ealtomare@oilregion.org.

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Town Hall Meeting for Faith and Civic Leaders – January 30, 2020

A Town Hall Meeting will take place on Thursday, January 30, 2020 from 6 – 8 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 1041 Liberty Street in Franklin, PA.

The Meeting is a workshop to connect faith and civic leaders to:

1) brainstorm ideas and create opportunities to partner on space-sharing concepts between churches and various organizations;

2) provide an opportunity to network with regional faith, non-profit, educational, and civic groups; and

3) establish a sustainable plan to continue working towards creative partnerships between faith and community organizations.

In the Oil Region, we have numerous large historic churches that are looking for ways to adapt to smaller memberships and funding sources while continuing to play integral roles in their communities. As this issue extends beyond the Oil Region, anyone is welcome to attend to learn more or to share their experiences.

The Town Hall Meeting will be presented by Partners for Sacred Places (Partners), of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with support from the Oil Region Alliance and Bridge Builders Community Foundations. Partners, founded in 1989, is the only national, non-sectarian, non-profit organization focused on building the capacity of congregations of historic sacred places to better serve their communities as anchor institutions, nurturing transformation, and shaping vibrant, creative communities.

Please direct questions about the meeting to Jenn Burden, Oil Region Alliance at jburden@oilregion.org or 814.677.3152 or to Trenton Moulin, Bridge Builders Community Foundations at trenton@bbcf.org or 814.677.8687.

RSVPs are appreciated to jburden@oilregion.org. The meeting is free to attend.

Off street parking is available behind the church from Buffalo Street.

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Signed Appropriations Bill Solidifies Oil Region National Heritage Area Federal Funding for Next Three Years


The Oil Region Alliance is pleased to announce last week’s passage of Fiscal Year 2020 Interior Appropriations Act.  Among other provisions, the federal funding authorization to the Oil Region National Heritage Area (ORNHA) is extended for three more years.

“We thank all our friends in the House and Senate, their staff, and, of course, the President, for their confidence in the Alliance and the work we have done for the last 15 years.  These actions by Congress and the President ensure our continued work on Economic Development, Heritage Preservation, Outdoor Recreation Development, and Tourism Marketing in the Oil Region,” said John R. Phillips, II, President and Chief Executive Officer of the ORA which administers the ORNHA.

Friday, December 20, 2019 President Trump signed the FY 2020 Appropriations Acts; the domestic package set includes the U. S. Department of the Interior and its National Park Service, thereby including an extension of federal funding for the Oil Region National Heritage Area through September 30, 2022.

“I was proud to lead these efforts in the House with my colleague Congressman Mike Kelly (PA-16).  The extension of the Oil Heritage Region designation is critical to economic development and tourism efforts in the Oil Region and an appropriate recognition of our heritage,” said Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson.

An independent study conducted in 2013 credited the ORNHA with directly and indirectly generating $21.2 million annually in the regional economy, creating and supporting 313 jobs, generating $1.5 million in state/local tax revenues, and partnering with local attractions hosting more than 239,000 visitors each year.

Senator Robert Casey remarked, “The Oil Region National Heritage Area is an exemplar for the type of public-private partnerships that enrich local communities and carry forward the tradition of the National Park Service. I am pleased Congress passed legislation extending the authorization of Oil Region, which will ensure it can continue its important work in northwestern Pennsylvania.”

The ORNHA was initially designated by Congress in 2004.  It consists of Venango County and the communities of Titusville, Hydetown, and Oil Creek Township in Crawford County.  The mission of the Oil Region Alliance is to manage the ORNHA and to increase the prosperity of the Oil Region by enticing people to live, work, learn and play in “The Valley That Changed The World” through the preservation, promotion, development, and support of historical, educational, natural, recreational, residential, commercial and industrial destinations.

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Pennsylvania Oil Region
Oil Region Map
National Park Service