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No, Taylor Swift didn’t buy one of Pa.’s biggest private forests

by Colin Deppen of Spotlight PA |

The 7,000-acre North Fork Lodge property in St. Marys, Elk County.
Courtesy Whitetail Properties

PITTSBURGH — One of Pennsylvania’s largest privately owned forests has a new owner.

The 7,000-acre North Fork Lodge property in St. Marys, Elk County — larger than most state parks — has been sold by Under Armour co-founder Kip Fulks to another businessperson with Maryland ties.

Shawn Pyle, president and CEO of the Churchville, Maryland-based DXI Construction, formerly Dixie Construction, confirmed to PA Local this week that he’s the $13 million buyer.

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Weeks of speculation about the sale included rumors of a pending purchase by Taylor Swift (a homecoming of sorts) that reached as far south as Pittsburgh, nearly three hours away.

Pyle didn’t broadcast the acquisition. The property was bought under an LLC — not unusual for real estate purchases of this size — that listed the same address as his construction firm.

PA Local obtained a copy of the articles of incorporation for the LLC and called the executor, a DXI employee. Several hours later, Pyle rang to confirm the property was now his.

The parcel is nothing short of massive. High atop the Allegheny Plateau, it boasts a rustic 1920s hunting lodge, a kitchen house with commercial kitchen, space to sleep 50 people, a ski chalet and slope (the lift installed by early owners at the Stackpole corporation is no longer operational), a trap and skeet range, trout streams, endless woods, and lots of wildlife.

Jack Brown, the broker on this deal, told PA Local it’s one of the most spectacular properties he’s seen.

Former owner Kip Fulks called it “love at first sight” in a 2017 interview with the Wall Street Journal, adding, “You just don’t get pieces [of land] like that on the East Coast anymore.”

In this 9-minute promotional video with extensive aerial views, Fulks cited his Alaska outfitting business and his family’s travel schedules as reasons to sell.

Pyle was at North Fork exploring with his son and grandson on Wednesday, a day after the deed was recorded.

So what does he plan to do with it?

The Somerset County native and York County resident told PA Local that his approach largely mirrors Fulks’.

“I’m just gonna keep it for family and friends,” Pyle said. “We’re gonna keep it as is. It’s basically 99% forest. We got lost up here today on the trails.”

Pyle said he plans to maintain North Fork’s “nostalgic” buildings. “They remind me of my childhood in Somerset,” he explained.

The property also has a long history of logging and more recently Marcellus Shale exploration — Fulks’ video testimonial mentions both in a section titled “natural income.”

Asked if he had any plans to allow more harvesting of resources like timber as the owner, Pyle said: “I don’t need the money to timber it … I like it the way it is.”

Pyle joined DXI in 1994 as a foreman and took over in 2017, according to the company’s website. DXI has 400 employees, a large mid-Atlantic footprint, and a project list spanning everything from roads and runways to Amazon distribution centers.

Pyle said his current hunting camp in Clearfield County (540 acres in size and now on the market) was typically used once a month or twice a month in-season. He expects to use North Fork at least as often.

He also plans to employ the same property caretaker as Fulks, a man Pyle said has been there for several owners and whose parents worked at the lodge in the 1950s.

In 2018, Jim Finley, a retired Penn State University forestry professor and Elk County landowner, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Forestry was once interested in purchasing North Fork Lodge, but the cost was too high.

Another massive tract of Elk County land, totaling 32,598 acres near Johnsonburg, was purchased by a conservation group in 2018 in what the Inquirer said was possibly "the single largest conservation acquisition by a nonprofit in Pennsylvania history."

Pyle had been looking for a piece of property in the area for some time.

“I got lucky,” he said while roaming North Fork this week.

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