What better way to mark the start of a new decade of a promising future than to reflect upon our past year? And what an incredibly productive one it was!
Again, 2019 will go down as a most memorable year for this department, one marked by continued commitment of its people to preserve and protect, while they embrace new programs designed to enhance and safeguard the natural world around us.
Beginning my sixth year as secretary, I constantly am reminded of the wealth of stunning state parks, forests, mountains, rivers, and trails with which we are blessed. Together, they form what I often describe as our “common wealth” -- our constitutional right to have and enjoy these spectacular assets. And, our duty to protect them.
That’s why last year, executive team members and I racked up an awful lot of miles, spreading the word on Governor Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania infrastructure investment plan; a proposed river trail in Allegheny County; an acquired Delaware State Forest tract in Pike County; a revamped Chapman State Park dam way up in the northwest; a Delaware Canal Towpath tunnel far down in the southeast.
These destinations, and many more, demonstrated the need for dedicated funding, so desperately needed if we are to protect them.
To better shield what we have, we at DCNR also must always prepare, and this department continues to move ahead most notably on three initiatives that have the new decade squarely in focus:
- Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps Highlights: Entering its fifth year in 2020 under leadership of Manager Michael D. Piaskowski, the program mobilized 246 members to complete conservation, health and safety, and visitor-readiness projects at more than 95 parks, forests, and communities. Last year, corps members invested more than 100,000 hours of service while learning about natural resources and gaining valuable on the job training. Hailed by private and public sectors alike, this initiative putting young people to work in our state parks and forests is getting bigger and better as it enters its fifth year!
- Climate Change: Heavy rainfall, flooding, damage to state park and state forest infrastructure -- all accompanied a continued warming of our climate. DCNR continues efforts to address these and other impacts of climate change. A new position, Director of Applied Climate Science, was added to DCNR’s executive staff to direct implementation of the department’s climate change adaptation and mitigation plan, and integrate the latest scientific findings into state park and forest operations. Director Greg Czarnecki now oversees development of climate change staff training and works with stakeholders and partner organizations to ensure DCNR remains at the forefront of helping to address the challenges of climate change.
- Sustainability in Parks and Forests: Dovetailing with above efforts, DCNR is reducing its energy consumption through reliance on solar units to power buildings and certain systems, such as sewage treatment, at state park and state forest buildings which will result in reducing our energy consumption by over 30 percent! Guaranteed Energy Saving Act (GESA), in partnership with Energy Systems Group (ESG), helped kick off a large, energy savings project covering 48 state parks and 12 state forest districts. To date, DCNR has completed 16 total solar installations which have resulted in clean solar energy production equal to the amount of electricity used in 420 homes; and introduced 16 electric vehicle charging stations at state parks and forests.
During 2019, there were many other accomplishments -- too varied to prioritize -- but grouped together, they are the reasons I am so proud of DCNR’s service to the commonwealth and all that we have been able to accomplish during the past year. Some highlights:
- Our Bureau of State Parks published its preliminary report on results of its “Penn’s Parks for All -- Planning for the State Parks of Tomorrow,” an intensive, statewide effort to seek public input to help guide its national award-winning state park system into the future. We know more than 14,000 people took the survey either online or in the parks between fall and spring 2018. Last year, each state park hosted public meetings to seek feedback on the survey’s suggestions and recommendations. Final recommendations will be issued late this year.
- Our Bureau of Forestry successfully completed its second prestigious dual certification audit, attaining continued third-party certification of sustainable forest management under both the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative standards.
- Our Bureau of Recreation and Conservation was the driving force behind DCNR’s announcements late last year of investments of more than $61 million for 284 projects across Pennsylvania. They will create new recreational opportunities, conserve natural resources, and help revitalize local communities.
- Our staff in the Bureau of Facility Design and Construction, long tasked with assuring safety and comfort of our state park and forest visitors, continues to work closely with all other bureaus as they focus on roads and other infrastructure, and energy conservation.
- DCNR’s Bureau of Geological Survey, with the support of a team of state, federal, private, and academic professionals, has initiated a program to create and maintain complete, modernized, authoritative surface water mapping for Pennsylvania.
As Pennsylvanians, we are fortunate to enjoy state park and forests systems that are the envy of many nationally. Traveling the state in 2019, I was sought out by elected officials, people in meetings, and men and women on the street. All tell me the same thing: they appreciate DCNR’s excellent job and its excellent people.
And my pride in both just keeps building, fueled by events like those this past November when I and other executive staff honored DCNR workers who were veterans of military service. In seven stops, we honored 93 department employees, among the 415 who served or are still serving.
I join staff being proud of the notable accomplishments of 2019 listed below:
They adhere to DCNR’s five strategic goals and reflect its seven strategic initiatives -- youth, recreation, forest conservation, climate, water, sustainability and diversity, equality and inclusion.
Since 2016, these initiatives have made great strides as they grow from, and build on, the core work our bureaus and staff perform every day. Together, all the following accomplishments have made my fifth year as secretary challenging, exciting, and most rewarding.
I have no doubt 2020 will continue to be marked by outstanding DCNR employee efforts and continued valuable interaction with our neighbors, visitors, and partners.
Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and rewarding new year!
Cindy Adams Dunn
Secretary, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources