Reinvest in Public Lands
State parks and forests are the backbone of Pennsylvania’s $29 billion outdoor-recreation industry, offering opportunities for pastimes like hiking, camping, and fishing that bring families together and pass along a rich outdoor heritage to younger generations. State parks and forests also provide important habitat for wildlife, and forests supply timber for the state’s $5.5 billion forest-product industry. The Environmental Stewardship Fund has funded crucial repairs and improvements in state parks and forests, as well as in areas managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) for hunting and fishing.
- 250+ projects to rehabilitate facilities and infrastructure in state parks and forests
- 17 hazardous dams fixed
- 10 state fish hatcheries improved
Aging Infrastructure and Facilities in State Parks and Forests
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) manages 121 state parks (covering nearly 300,000 acres) and 2.2 million acres of state forests where millions of people hike, camp, swim, bike, fish, hunt, snowmobile, and more. State parks and forests are the places where many children taste their first s’more or catch their first fish, where adults pursue the hobbies that add meaning and satisfaction to their lives. Many of these parks and forests were established decades ago and time, weather, and heavy use have taken a toll on their facilities and infrastructure. Altogether, the documented needs list for necessary repairs and improvements is nearly $1 billion.
Some necessary repairs and improvements are related to visitor access: Campgrounds need new sites, picnic pavilions need repainting, visitor centers need roof repairs, parking lots need potholes filled…the list goes on and on. These features are what enable people to use and enjoy parks and forests, and their upkeep costs are significant and ongoing.
DCNR also faces massive costs to maintain the infrastructure essential for day-to-day operations of state parks and forests. Visitors might overlook roads, sewer systems, dams, and maintenance buildings. But if roads aren’t drivable and toilets don’t flush, using (let alone enjoying) state parks and forests simply isn’t possible—when infrastructure fails and there is no funding to fix it, parks and forests (or sections of them) are forced to close.
And if Pennsylvanians lose access to state parks and forests, they key opportunities to experience the outdoors in a welcoming and affordable setting. In a world where most people live in cities and children spend increasing amounts of time indoors on their phones instead of playing outside, these places fill a more crucial role than ever.
Aging PGC and PFBC Infrastructure
PGC manages 1.5 million acres of state game lands that Pennsylvania’s 500,000-plus hunters rely on for hunting and shooting. This heavy use takes a major toll on site-specific features like shooting ranges as well as infrastructure like roads, bridges, and parking lots necessary for continued use of the land.
PFBC manages many of Pennsylvania’s 1,000 public fishing and boating access areas that serve as gateways to the state’s waterways, where millions of people boat, fish, and paddle. Due to funding shortages, many access points have suffered from years of deferred maintenance or have been closed altogether due to safety concerns.
There are also over 50 lakes managed by PFBC that provide the same excellent recreation opportunities. However, on these lakes are dozens of high-hazard dams that need urgent repairs before deteriorating to the point of being unsafe. If these dams are not rehabilitated, they will become dangerous liabilities and impair the recreational value of the lakes.
Trail Gaps and Necessary Renovations
Pennsylvania boasts over 11,000 miles of trails. However, these trails require maintenance to remain safe and usable, and many of the older ones will need major renovations in the near future to address issues like erosion and lack of accessibility. Without these renovations, trails could be deemed unsafe and forced to close. Renovation projects are not cheap, sometimes costing tens of thousands of dollars per mile. There are also major gaps in Pennsylvania’s system of trails where uncompleted sections force trail users onto busy roadways, putting them in danger and scaring away other potential trail users.
Improve Facilities and Infrastructure in State Parks and Forests
The Environmental Stewardship Fund has made more than 250 investments to improve the facilities and infrastructure in state parks and forests. Projects to enhance visitor access include building restrooms, rehabilitating fishing piers, maintaining trails, installing signage, and adding ADA-compliant features. Infrastructure-related projects include repaving roads, fortifying dams, replacing sewer pipes, and purchasing essential equipment like mowers and backhoes.
Ultimately, these repairs and improvements ensure that state parks and forests remain safe, clean, accessible, and—most importantly—open for the millions of people who use them each year to relax in the outdoors and make lifelong memories with loved ones. They also ensure that Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests will remain in good condition in the coming decades so that future generations can keep our outdoor traditions alive.
Boosting the Economy
Money invested in state parks and forests generates significant economic benefits. According to one study, state parks generate upwards of $738 million each year in visitor spending while directly supporting over 8,000 jobs, and every dollar invested returns up to $9. The land protected by state parks and forests also provide a host of natural benefits, saving taxpayers money by purifying the air, filtering water, mitigating flooding, and raising property values.
Furthermore, Pennsylvania’s 2.2 million acres of state forests provide timber for the state’s forest-product industry, which generates $5.5 billion each year and supports 90,000 jobs.
Improve Fishing and Boating Infrastructure
Investments through the Growing Greener II bond allowed PGC to make dozens of infrastructure and facility improvements on state game lands, and enabled PFBC to repair docks, parking areas, and other features necessary for people to access the abundant fishing, boating and paddling opportunities offered by Pennsylvania’s lakes, rivers, and streams. The Environmental Stewardship Fund also funded much-needed facility improvements to 10 of the state’s 12 fish hatcheries, ensuring a steady supply of fish for thousands of anglers, and repairs to 17 hazardous dams that made fishing and boating unsafe.
Create and Enhance Trails
Pennsylvania’s robust network trails offers something for everyone, from walkers and joggers to cyclists, skiers, and equestrians. Many trails also serve as crucial transportation links, especially for people without access to a car. Local governments and organizations—often working in partnership—have relied on Environmental Stewardship Fund investments to plan, build, and improve trails, connecting communities in the process.