The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary visited Shawnee State Park in Bedford County Today to discuss how Federal Pandemic Recovery Funds could be used to update and repair infrastructure within State Parks and Forests.
Cait Westerholm has more on how the multi million dollar funding will impact these lands
When most people visit a State Park or Forest, they think of camping and hiking, but maybe not the infrastructure it takes to create a great experience in a park.
So that’s why DCNR says it’s important to emphasize the infrastructure needs within State Parks and Forests.
“The DCNR is responsible for overseeing 121 state parks and more than 2.2 million acres of state forestland. Now, they face infrastructure needs of more than $1.4 billion to make upgrades and repairs to State Parks and Forests across the Commonwealth and now there is an opportunity to get funding.”
“The governor has proposed $450 million of Growing Greener Three money to be available for recreation and conservation. So we see it as the best opportunity we’ve seen for a long time to repair these bridges.”
After the January collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh, Dunn thought it was time to tell the story of how the state parks and forests system has many bridges that need repairing, among other things.
“We’ve got about 1000 bridges and 150 of them are ranked poor. So, we see an opportunity to get some funding to repair this much needed part of our infrastructure through American Rescue Fund dollars.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic brought a surge of people into State Parks and Forests, putting a strain on the system and causing the DCNR to fall behind in maintenance and upgrades to things such as dams, sewage and water systems, trails, campgrounds, and visitor’s centers. And having these amenities up to date will give visitors a quality experience while at State Parks.
“So, if you have a beach, but don’t have modern toilets at the beach, that can be a deterrent for some people.”
Getting the funding through the government is important because state parks and forests are free to visit, so not much revenue is generated through visitors alone
“You have a picnic, have a vacation, and it can cost very little and that’s the beauty of it, but if we’re not investing in it, we can’t give people these opportunities.”
The demand for the outdoors is higher than ever and THE DCNR says IT SEES that demand staying high, so it remains important to keep all aspects of state parks and forests up to date.
“Now it’s time to put some of this federal money to work and bring our recreation system back up to where it should be to serve our people.”