This month, communities across the commonwealth are learning about new investments being made in their local parks, trails, and rivers that will expand close-to-home opportunities for outdoor recreation that have become so important to our mental and physical health during this pandemic.
Combined, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is providing about $55 million for 261 projects through its Community Conservation Partnerships Program.
Here are some examples of projects around the state:
An investment of $250,000 will include the construction of a kayak/canoe launch area at River Common in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, to improve access to the Susquehanna River.
The project also will include walkways and landscaping.
"This grant is a tremendous opportunity to make River Common even more accessible and beautiful for generations to come," Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski said. "This is one of the premiere parks in Wilkes-Barre and the region and should be available to everyone. Thank you to DCNR and all involved for recognizing how important this investment is for our community."
River Common is a public park located along the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre on either side of the Market Street Bridge. In addition to walkways, gardens, and a fishing pier the park has a 750-seat amphitheater and hosts many events.
Right now there is a boat launch on the other side of the river at Nesbitt Park, but John Maday, the Executive Director of the Riverfront Parks Committee says access to the Susquehanna River is in high demand.
"Oh, it's extremely busy and I have been noticing throughout this pandemic more and more vehicles with kayaks and there's quite a bit of activity on this side of the river. So now we have two sides of the river that will accommodate kayaks and canoes. You can't get any better than that for the, for the enthusiast," said Maday.
"You have your kayak down here, enjoy the outdoors, you would then put your kayak on a rack that we're going to be providing, lock it up, and then you can go right into the city of Wilkes Barre, you could enjoy a bite to eat, you can go shopping. It's an all-inclusive experience now," said Pedri.
Maday says even though there was a boost in outdoor activities because of the pandemic, he thinks the interest will remain once the virus fades away.
"So, we, we know how important that is. And the Outfitters we work with they've been extremely busy this year. So those people are not going away. Once they'd have a taste of it coming down that river, it's extremely unique."
The grant is among 22 awarded statewide, totaling approximately $2.85 million from Environmental Stewardship and Keystone funds and federal EPA Chesapeake Bay Grants for rivers conservation, access, and streamside forest buffers.
Projects include stream and floodplain restoration, conservation plans, six boat docks/river access points, a fishing pier in Philadelphia, green infrastructure in local parks, and more than 93 acres of streamside forest buffers. A complete list (PDF) is on the DCNR website.
A grant of $500,000 will help construct a critical 1.8-mile segment of the Jordan Creek Greenway Trail in Allentown.
“Trails are all about connectivity – communities to each other, people to being active outdoors,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “The Wolf Administration is pleased to be able to support this segment of the Jordan Creek Greenway Trail to help the Lehigh Valley expand its network of regional trails that also are important as alternative means of transportation, and add to the quality of life features that attract businesses and workers.”
The segment will connect Jordan Park with the Jordan Meadows Park.
Upon completion, the entire 14-mile Jordan Creek Greenway trail will traverse through Allentown and the townships of Whitehall, South Whitehall and North Whitehall and connect many regional parks, including Jordan Park, Jordan Creek Parkway, Covered Bridge Park and the Trexler Nature Preserve.
“The pathway will provide significant recreation, economic, educational and environmental benefits,” said Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell. “It will allow trail users of all abilities to experience nature. I am very grateful to the Wolf Administration and DCNR for the generous support.”
“It establishes a safe, continuous corridor through an urban community that will help promote outdoor recreation, assist in fostering a culture of active living, facilitate non-motorized transportation and assist in marketing and promoting Allentown as a destination for trail users,” said Karen El-Chaar, city director of parks and recreation.
The investment is among 41 grants supported by the Keystone Fund awarded statewide, totaling approximately $7.6 million, for trail projects including planning, construction and rehabilitation as well as for ATVs/snowmobiles. A complete list (PDF) is on the DCNR website.
Community Parks and Partnerships
An investment of $500,000 will support the improvement of Trail Park in the Fairhill neighborhood in Philadelphia.
“DCNR is happy to assist with transformation of this former railyard in the Fairhill neighborhood into a new park and trailhead, because close-to-home opportunities to enjoy the outdoors are important factors in quality of life for residents, and attracting and keeping businesses,” Dunn said. “The park is designed to meet the needs of all ages and abilities, a key component of our newly released statewide plan called Recreation for All.”
The grant to the Hispanic Association of Contractors & Enterprises in Philadelphia will help with the creation of a 1.3-acre park on a former rail yard site that includes a playground, amphitheater with seating, accessible walkways, comfort and concession facilities, patio, and a food truck area. The project, a result of extensive community involvement and planning, will include the future trailhead of the proposed Richmond Industrial Trail connecting to The Circuit trails in southeast Pennsylvania.
The park will serve a broad community with varying inclusivity and accessibility needs, including a large population of seniors who live in the area adjacent to this site. Multi-generational households also are common in this area, requiring the need for open space which can accommodate both children and seniors in the same space.
Features will include ramps and barrier-free travel routes, accessible play options, limited grade changes, edge protection, and appropriate, stable surfacing to provide true inclusivity for the full range of planned programming and activities.
“I am thrilled that the Commonwealth, through this substantial grant funding, is supporting the community’s hard work on this project, led by the Hispanic Association of Contractors & Enterprises,” Senator Christine Tartaglione said. “The Trail Park will improve the quality of life for local children, their parents, and senior citizens with its emphasis on inclusivity and access for all. And it will help to strengthen the bonds of our community by bringing families closer together.”
Sullivan County has been awarded $38,000 to create a comprehensive recreation, park, and greenway plan.
“I am encouraged applications from Bradford and Sullivan counties received funding,” Senator Gene Yaw commented. “Safe and accessible recreation is important to residents in the Northern Tier. I look forward to seeing these projects come to fruition.”
A complete list of the 158 community park and partnership grants (PDF) is on the DCNR website.
In Erie County, an investment of more than $288,500 will protect approximately 278 acres of open space and natural areas.
“This funding helps the department support the acquisition of land for expansion of areas for outdoor recreation, critical wildlife habitat, and for the conservation of open space and natural areas,” Dunn said. “We are happy to assist communities in Erie County with protecting the places they value for opportunities to spend time in nature, and to help provide critical habitat for plants and wildlife.”
“The French Creek Watershed area is recognized as one of the most biologically significant waterways in the nation and is a beloved part of what makes northwestern Pennsylvania such a scenic place to hike, bike, boat, fish, hunt, and more,” Sen. Michele Brooks said. “I am certain that so many families will celebrate this support and what it means for not only outdoor enthusiasts, but for our local plant, aquatic, bird, and wildlife. The pandemic has certainly reminded us of how blessed we are to have peaceful, pristine places to go outside to enjoy fresh air and nature’s handiwork.”
A complete list of the 42 land acquisition grants (PDF) awarded statewide is on the DCNR website. The $17 million in grants supported by the Keystone Fund will assist with the conservation of 13,300 acres of open space and natural areas.
The 2021 Community Conservation Partnerships Program grant round will open in January and close in April. Learn more on DCNR's Grants webpage.