BLOG: State Parks System Grows Stronger in 2015
By: Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources
January 26, 2016
Some of the country’s biggest cities, like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania’s small towns like Confluence in the southwest, Ridgway in the Pennsylvania Wilds and Jim Thorpe in the Poconos, have recognized the value of their rivers, trails and parks as amenities that spur business development and draw people to downtowns.
Our special places, wildlife and landscapes are important to our well-being, our identity and help us attract tourists for outdoor adventures and to keep our communities vibrant.
As Pennsylvania’s largest land manager, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is leading outdoor recreation initiatives to invigorate citizens and communities, encourage healthy lifestyles, create jobs that pay and promote environmental stewardship. It’s been a productive year.
Conserving our natural places, providing citizens and visitors with opportunities for outdoor experiences, and harnessing our natural resources responsibly improve our economy and quality of life for all Pennsylvanians. One of the first actions Governor Wolf took was to sign an executive order reinstating a moratorium on new leases for oil and gas development on state park and forest lands. With the moratorium in place, DCNR continues to monitor current activity and adapt management practices.
Our state parks host 38 million visitors annually, support more 13,000 jobs, and provide $1.2 billion in economic activity in nearby communities. In 2015, DCNR added more than 25,000 acres of land to our state park and forest system. We also collected more than 4,000 comments to inform a plan to manage our state forests to make sure they are healthy and productive for many years.
Creating healthy and livable communities that support jobs that pay includes successfully serving the recreation needs of those who live, work and play in them. DCNR in 2015 rolled out a 5-year plan with 83 action steps to improve our opportunities for outdoor recreation and adventures all across the commonwealth.
The plan tells us Pennsylvanians love to walk trails, especially close to home; watch wildlife; and are increasingly interested in kayaking and winter activities. Pennsylvania has them all! It provides a road map for the next several years to make communities more desirable places to live, provide children safe places to play, and protect the natural environment. To help citizens find a place to play outdoors that’s close to home, DCNR launched a new web page of 5,600 local parks that is searchable by name, region and location.
DCNR is looking for opportunities to grow our recreational and tourism economy through a revitalized park and forest system that ensures we are conserving our natural resources and protecting our people and the environment. Three buildings on DCNR lands, including a new visitor center at Ohiopyle State Park, received top certifications for being green and sustainable in 2015. The department also treated thousands of trees for invasive pests like hemlock wooly adelgid and emerald ash borer, and planted 1.8 million tree seedlings.
A government that works protects our natural heritage and secures its future for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians. DCNR made good on that promise in 2015.
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