Thursday, September 24, 2020

DCNR Releases Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, Announces $23.4 Million In Grants To Support 158 Park, Recreation Projects

On September 24, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined officials in the City of Reading and others in the release of the new
Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

DCNR also announced the investment of $23.4 million in 158 community park and partnership projects across the state through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program funded by the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund.

Recreation Plan

The plan, Recreation for All, is a blueprint including 20 recommendations and 70 action steps for meeting the outdoor recreation needs of all Pennsylvanians. 

“Now more than ever, we have experienced the impact of outdoor recreation on our mental and physical wellbeing,” Dunn said. “Pennsylvania’s new outdoor recreation plan serves as a blueprint on how we can make outdoor recreation accessible to every Pennsylvanian.”

In October 2018, DCNR began a more than a year-long public process of developing the state’s outdoor recreation plan, required every five years by the federal government to receive funding.

At the gathering, Dunn released the state’s newest Outdoor Recreation Plan, developed with input of nearly 12,000 Pennsylvanians, including recreation providers, outdoor enthusiasts and the public at large.

“This plan was developed for Pennsylvanians, by Pennsylvanians,” Dunn noted. “Through surveys, research and our technical advisory committee, we developed 20 recommendations and 70 actions steps that can guide investments and programs over the next five years. While DCNR leads the plan, implementing it is a team effort of other state agencies as well as recreation, conservation and health partners to together tackle challenges and embrace opportunities.”

Guided by a 40-member Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), the plan’s priorities, recommendations, and actions were finalized before the challenges of COVID-19 and protests around racial injustice, but the framework for state outdoors recreation addresses those and other pressing challenges of today. 

Specifically, the plan prioritizes--

-- Health and Wellness: Outdoor recreation is key to helping address some of today’s pressing health care issues. A growing body of evidence suggests that spending time outdoors can benefit human health. Creating walkable and bikeable communities can encourage active living. 

An increased focus by the health care community on recreation and opportunities for new partnerships and coordination can lessen our chronic disease crisis. Getting people of all ages connected to the outdoors and nature can have a positive effect on the health and wellness of our citizens. 

This plan focuses on the growing connection between health and the outdoors, the communication of this connection to Pennsylvania residents, and leveraging partnerships with the health care community to expand nature-based health and wellness programs. 

-- Recreation for All: Ensuring all Pennsylvanians have close-to-home opportunities for recreation is vitally important to the future of outdoor recreation in the state. 

A plan is not serving all people if there are segments of the population who feel disconnected or unwelcome, or simply don’t have easy access to outdoor spaces and amenities. 

Our age, neighborhood, gender, color of skin, language, ability, or socioeconomic standing should not be barriers to enjoying outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania. 

This plan strives to provide new parks and green spaces where they clearly are lacking. It aims to ensure that all people feel invited and engaged in our outdoor spaces by developing strategies to overcome real and perceived barriers through enhanced access, amenities, and programs. 

-- Sustainable Systems: Our ability to protect and enhance our public natural and recreational resources grows increasingly challenging as interests diversify, pressures intensify, infrastructure ages, and our climate changes. 

Recreation providers must plan for how to sustainably manage the resources, while trying to predict the uncertainty of the future. 

And land managers and conservation leaders must work tirelessly to uphold Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. 

This plan outlines strategies to balance the needs of our natural resources with the ever-changing demands of recreation enthusiasts through careful planning and design, innovative solutions and partnerships, and emphasis on stewardship by all.

-- Funding and Economic Development: Our parks, trails, and other recreational amenities create places where people want to live, work, and play. 

Pennsylvania has plenty of examples where towns and businesses are capitalizing on the benefits of recreational and natural assets. 

Given the wealth of outdoor assets and successful case studies, the opportunities for the growth of the outdoor recreation economy in Pennsylvania is hopeful, but commitment to investments and prioritization must improve.

Infrastructure needs and recreation demands greatly outpace investments at the state and local levels and grow exponentially each year. 

This plan outlines why safeguarding and increasing investments in outdoor recreation and expanding support for the outdoor recreation economy must be top priorities.

-- Technology: Over the last decade, advances in technology have had profound effects on how people experience the outdoors. Technology gives the public instant access to information about outdoor recreation opportunities.

Advances in technology have allowed for better data collection and analysis. New tools and equipment that enhance the way we navigate and explore are exposing more people to the wonders of nature. 

At the same time, technological advancements can lead to overuse and overpromotion and detract from the beauty of nature. 

This plan seeks to set the right balance on how we can use technology to our advantage without it being disruptive or destructive. 

“It was a remarkable experience to participate in, listen to the conversations, and work to represent the interests and needs of truly all residents of the state and those who visit,” said Todd Pride, managing director of The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County and TAC member. “I commend DCNR’s leadership and team for bringing together all interests of the state and differing viewpoints in developing what will be another award-winning plan.  I’m proud to say I’m a resident of ‘Penn’s Woods.’”

The goal of the state outdoor recreation plan is to help all Pennsylvanians achieve greater access and enjoyment from experiences in the Commonwealth’s abundance of local and state parks, state and national forests, trails, rivers, lakes, game lands and other recreation spaces.

Plan Story Map

DCNR is launching a new story map -- Recreation for All -- that outlines the five priority areas for outdoor recreation in the statewide plan and the key action steps as another tool to engage stakeholders and communities in the work.

Partnership Grants

DCNR also announced the investment of $23.4 million in 158 community park and partnership projects across the state.

DCNR announced its first round of grants at Reading’s 3rd and Spruce Recreation Center -- a facility that has benefitted from a 2019 DCNR grant for rehabilitation and further development.

Dunn announced the city again would benefit from a DCNR investment -- as part of its 2020 approved Community Parks, Communities and Partnerships grants. 

A $270,000 Keystone Fund grant has been approved for development of the Reading Skatepark. Total cost of the project: $540,000, with a $270,000 match from the Reading Skatepark Association.

In the coming weeks, the department will be announcing other grants in phases addressing rivers conservation and riparian buffers; trails; and acquisitions – land trust and community.

More than 400 applications requesting almost $105 million in grant funds were received in April 2020. Through a competitive review process the applications were reviewed, evaluated, scored, and ranked.

Regional Grant Workshops

Need funding for a park, trail, or conservation project? The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Recreation and Conservation is hosting virtual regional grant workshops in November.

Click Here for all the details.

The DCNR website includes information about the Community Conservation Partnerships Program grants and Pennsylvania’s Outdoor Recreation Plan.

  For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

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[Posted: Sept. 24, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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