Tuesday, March 19, 2019

PA Parks & Forests Foundation Tells House Committee: State Parks & Forests Are The Golden Egg, But We’re Starving The Goose

On March 19, PA Parks and Forests Foundation President Marci Mowery reviewed the details of the Foundation’s new report on the more than $1 billion in infrastructure maintenance needs at state parks and forests at a meeting of the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee.
“State parks and forests are our golden egg, but right now we are starving the goose,” said Mowery in her introductory remarks, noting parks and forests contribute significantly to the local economy.  
For every dollar invested in state parks, she said, $12.41 of income is returned to the local and state economy.
In describing the maintenance needs, Mowery said DCNR manages an area twice the size of the state of Delaware that has over 40 million visitors a year.
One recently appointed state park manager said a park is like managing a city with roads, bridges, dams, pavilions, cabins and other buildings, often with wastewater and drinking water plants, docks, marinas, pools, ski areas and golf courses and other recreation infrastructure that needs to be kept up and safe for visitors so they can fully enjoy the parks.
Mowery said, however, many of the buildings used by those visitors were built during the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps or during the “Goddard Era” of development in the 1970s and are often decades beyond their original design life.
DCNR also owns and operates 131 dams, including 47 that are considered high hazard, as well as 860 vehicular bridges and hundreds of pedestrian bridges.  The average age of a bridge in a state park is 62 years, when the design life is 50 years.
She also noted staffing levels at DCNR are at the same level they were in 1970 when state parks and forests had half the number of visitors and many fewer parks to manage.
She said these funds, which have wide public support, help build local recreation projects and fund projects in state parks and forests.  Changing the way projects are funded would mean money may not be there when the projects are being built creating uncertainty and less predictability.
Also in response to a question, Mowery said the Foundation has been opposed to a entrance fee to state parks and forests not only because of the potential staff and other costs for implementing a fee system at parks designed with multiple entrances and access points, but because it may discourage park use.
On the issue of getting more private-public partnerships and vendors to invest money in operating portions of state parks and forests, Mowery said the parks already have many vendors operating pool, boating and other recreation opportunities and additional arrangements would have to be looked in terms of their impact on long term maintenance costs.
Mowery said PPFF is recommending an investment of $100 million a year to address the backlog in state parks and forest maintenance.
Mowery said she looked forward to discussing funding options with members of the General Assembly since they are the experts on funding.
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.  Click Here to become a member of the Foundation.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing (when posted).
Rep. David Millard (R-Columbia) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-783-1102 or send email to: dmillard@pahousegop.com.  Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer) serves as Minority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-772-4035 or send email to: mlongiet@pahouse.net.
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