Wednesday, July 24, 2019

DCNR To Unveil State Parks Plan, Updated PA Outdoor Recreation Plan For Comment This Fall

On July 24, representatives of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources told DCNR’s Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council they would be unveiling a draft strategic plan for Pennsylvania State Parks and an updated PA Outdoor Recreation Plan this Fall for public review.
Penn’s Parks For All Draft Plan
Paul Zeph, from DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks, updated the Council on the State Parks strategic planning effort-- the Penn’s Parks for All Initiative
DCNR launched the initiative in 2017 to ensure Pennsylvania’s award-winning state park system will remain as relevant and valuable to future generations as it has been to current and past generations.
Among the questions asked in the planning process and in a public survey were--
-- Should we change the current outdoor recreation opportunities or experiences?
-- Should we enhance overnight accommodations in our state parks?
-- How should we pay for our state parks?
-- How can we protect our state parks?
-- Should we provide more modern conveniences within state parks?
-- How is visitor satisfaction with park services and facilities?
-- How appropriate are certain facilities and activities in our state parks?
DCNR reached out to State Park users, minority groups and the public in an effort to understand how people use parks now and asked them what they would like to see in the future.
Based on this feedback and their own work, DCNR expects to have a summary of its initial recommendations out in August for public comment.
PA Outdoor Recreation Plan
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn told Council a similar effort has been underway to develop a PA Outdoor Recreation Plan for 2020-2024which covers recreation opportunities at the local, county, regional and state level.
The latest Outdoor Recreation Plan covers 2014 to 2019. The Plan is a requirement of the National Park Service.
She said DCNR expects to have an initial set of recommendations ready for public feedback in September or October.
Replacing Lands Lost To Drilling
Tom Ford, from DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, provided an update on what happens when recreation lands bought or developed with federal Land and Water Conservation Fund monies are converted to other uses.
Federal law requires the recreation value of those lands be replaced.
Ford said the last 5 year inspection cycle on these lands turned up 120 instances of conversions that needed to be reconciled and they have been working through those issues.
One of the most significant loss of recreation land issues facing DCNR is the replacement of 138.37 acres of State Forest lost to shale gas drilling and development.
In May, DCNR invited public comments on a draft Environmental Assessment recommending the recreational value of State Forest land lost when it was leased those lands for drilling from 2008 to 2011 be replaced with land it is purchasing in Chester County.
DCNR estimates 138.37 acres of land used for natural gas development in State Forests-- 17 natural gas drilling well pad sites, field compressor stations and 2 associated roads-- and bought with federal Land and Water Conservation Fund money has lost it recreational value.
As part of the public comment process on the proposal, Ford said the agency received nearly 50 comments, most suggested the replacement recreation value should be in the areas where the values were lost.
During the comment period, the PA Environmental Defense Foundation advised DCNR that in its opinion the replacement proposal does not meet DCNR’s obligations under the Environmental Rights Amendment.
Ford said they are working on a comment/response document for the proposal and there will be changes made in response to the comments, but he did not elaborate on what those changes may be.
Ephraim Zimmerman presided at the meeting, his first meeting as Chair of the Council.  Zimmerman is from Pittsburgh and has a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University and an M.S. in Forest Ecology from the University of Michigan and serves as the PA Natural Heritage Program Science Director at the Western PA Conservancy.
For more information and available handouts, visit the DCNR Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council webpage.  Questions should be directed to Gretchen Leslie, 717-772-9084,

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