Tuesday, June 28, 2016

PA Parks & Forests Foundation: What State Parks Really Need, Hint: It’s Not Golf Courses & Water Slides

Attempts by House Republicans to dictate, without any involvement of the public, what kinds of recreational experiences should be in Pennsylvania’s State Parks in House Bill 2013 (Ellis-R-Butler) and House Bill 2188 (Christiana-R-Beaver) raises the question of what DO our State Parks actually need?
Hint: It’s not water slides, golf courses and cheesy tourist attractions that are a drain on DCNR’s reduced staff and maintenance resources.
Fortunately, the PA Parks and Forests Foundation has the answer.
The Foundation maintains a Wish List of State Park Projects on its website that anyone with a computer can access, if they care to, or even bothered to.  They are listed by State Park and some by Region.
The Wish List includes: Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant trails for veterans and other citizens who are differently-abled, fishing docks and boat launches; improved trail connections; teaching pavilions; and heavy equipment for maintenance staff.
Then there is the maintenance backlog, which includes dam repairs, new sewage and water treatment facilities, upgrades of campgrounds to full hookups and more cabins as requested by the people.
How was the public involved in these Wish List requests?  Through 42, local Friends of State Parks groups that volunteer to improve their local State Parks.
And how else do we know what State Parks need, through Pennsylvania’s, twice-award-winning, Outdoor Recreation Plan which had over 10,000 responses to a public survey on recreation needs; a steering committee representing 40 agencies, organizations, and commissions; three public input meetings; and online public feedback sessions.
The final Plan includes 20 recommendations and 83 action steps.  It’s right here, again, if you care to look, or bother.
The Foundation points out private industry is welcome to support projects on the list. The maintenance backlog can be addressed through proper funding of DCNRs budget by the General Assembly and Gov. Wolf.
Resorts, golf courses and lodges are NOT on DCNR’s wish list or the public’s, according to the Foundation.
For more information on programs, initiatives and special events, visit the PA Parks & Forests Foundation website.  Click Here to sign up for regular updates from the Foundation,  Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.
Related Story:
House Bill 2013 Remains A Frontal Assault On Why PA State Parks Are So Successful
Editorial: Set High Bar For Private Development In State Parks
Crable: Vets Find Peace On The Water


  1. All Lovers Of The Outdoors Should Oppose HB 2013 and 2188
    -Jim Foster

    As a younger man, I enjoyed playing golf and tennis. So, I have no objection to developing places to play the country club sports. Now, as an older man, I enjoy hiking and backpacking in places like Pennsylvania's wonderful state parks and forests. I do object to attempts by members of the Pennsylvania Legislature to develop some of our parks and forests into country clubs and similar facilities.

    House Bill 2013 would establish a Public-Private State Park Partnership Board to review and approve contracts with private sector entities for development, financing, construction and operation of recreation, lodging, and ancillary facilities in Pennsylvania State Parks. HB 2188 would mandate that at least four golf courses be carved out of existing state park land as a tribute to Arnold Palmer.

    Why do we need this legislation? According to Representative Jim Christiana, prime sponsor of the Arnold Palmer golf course bill, “The state park system has been stagnant for some time. My bill and the other legislation are ways to increase utilization of our parks, diversify users and increase recreation opportunities...” By the way, Mr. Christiana is reported to be a golfer with a 5.8 handicap.

    I'm not sure which state park system Rep. Christiana is describing, but it is surely not that of our Keystone State. In 2009, Pennsylvania’s 117-state park system competed with the best systems in the country, and was awarded the top honor as the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association. In 2010, 38 million visitors visited Pennsylvania State Parks. A study showed that visitors spent $859 million on their trips, supporting 12,630 jobs, and providing $397.8 million in labor income. The spending total includes the impact of businesses selling goods and services directly to visitors, and industries that sell goods or services to tourism-related businesses. Does that sound like a "stagnant" system to you?

    Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with public private partnerships (P-P-P's). And, as a western Pennsylvania native, you'll never hear me say anything bad about the legendary Arnold Palmer. But why do we need a special board of political appointees to decide which P-P-P's to enter into? We already have an outstanding, award-winning, staff at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to decide which P-P-P's to enter into and which ones don't make sense for PA. If the legislature wants to encourage more P-P-P's, why don't they do something sensible, like putting some funding in the budget to study P-P-P's.

    What's worse, HB 2188, the Arnold Palmer golf course bill, would circumvent either DCNR's senior staff or the proposed P-P-P board. The Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, would mandate that these golf courses be carved out of state park land, apparently with no cost-benefit analysis or review of the environmental impact. What's next? Will the Legislature mandate a water park at Gifford Pinchot State Park, a Disney-like theme park at World's End State Park, or office buildings at Colton Point State Park, atop the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon?
    I spent my working life in the private sector, and I consider myself a conservative on many issues. One of the best conservative maxims is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." There is nothing "broke" about DCNR, though they could use some more funding to keep up our parks and forests. I have a deal to propose to the leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature: You concentrate your energies on working with Gov. Wolf to pass a budget on time. But, please let the excellent senior staff at DCNR work on how to manage our state parks and forests.


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