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​Pennsylvania’s Outdoor Recreation Plan

Every five years, states across the nation are required to produce a new statewide recreation plan to help guide their recreation policies, programs, and investments.

The plan is needed to remain eligible for federal grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which are used to:

  • Build parks and historic sites
  • Conserve forests, rivers, lakes, and wildlife habitat
  • Provide access to recreation, hunting, and fishing

Pennsylvania has benefitted from more than $178 million in funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for projects across the commonwealth during the last 55 years.

2020-2024 Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan

DCNR has finalized Pennsylvania’s next Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (PDF) -- the blueprint for delivering outdoor recreation services for the next five years.

In 2018 and 2019, DCNR and its Technical Advisory Committee for the Outdoor Recreation Plan collected and analyzed public input relating to the five priority themes for the plan: health and wellness; recreation for all; sustainable systems; technology; and funding and economic development. DCNR received input from 12,000 people to help shape the plan.

DCNR presented 20 draft recommendations and close to 100 action items in October 2019 for the public’s reaction and feedback.

The 2020-2024 outdoor recreation plan will be used by state agencies, local governments, and other recreation providers to guide outdoor recreation programs, policies, and projects.

Public Participation in Developing Plan

Public participation is a vital component of the development of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Recreation Plan.

With each plan, research is conducted to gather feedback and insight of Pennsylvania residents, recreation enthusiasts, and those that provide outdoor recreation services and facilities.

Fall and Spring Lion Polls

During the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019, the Penn State Center for Survey Research conducted two Lion Polls to understand outdoor recreation patterns and opinions regarding future recreation land conservation, facility development and management.

Summary of Fall 2018 Lion Poll (PDF)
Summary of Spring 2019 Lion Poll (PDF)

Local Recreation Provider Survey

More than 1,000 recreation providers, including local appointed officials, local elected officials, and park and recreation directors, responded to a survey gauging outdoor recreation services in their local communities and the challenges they face.

Summary of Local Recreation Provider Survey (PDF)

Public Online Survey

An online survey was conducted during May and June 2019 to capture the thoughts and opinions of everyday Pennsylvanians who did not have an opportunity to answer the other surveys, but had an interest in outdoor recreation. A total of 8,676 people responded.

Summary of Public Online Survey (PDF)

Focus Groups

Two focus groups of Latino and Black Pennsylvanians were conducted to garner opinions from two groups that are underrepresented in other survey methods used by DCNR.

Summary of Focus Group Sessions (PDF)

Supporting Studies and Research

The Trust for Public Land

For the 2020 plan, DCNR and Pennsylvania Land Trust Association collaborated with The Trust for Public Land (TPL) to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to understand access to outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, TPL’s Research and Innovation Team used the data analysis methods to assist DCNR in identifying areas with the greatest need and opportunity (PDF). This interactive map of outdoor recreation access in Pennsylvania shows the results of the analysis.

State Parks User Surveys

In 2017, DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks embarked on a multi-year data collection to gauge the ideas, interests, and suggestions about Pennsylvania’s state park system through telephone, in-person, and online surveys.

The purpose of these surveys was to assess the attitudes and opinions of state park visitors, the general public, and ethnic minorities regarding key issues for the future of Pennsylvania state parks to inform the Penn’s Parks for All 25-year strategic plan.

Leadership 2025

DCNR and the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society convened Pennsylvania’s second Recreation and Conservation Leadership Summit in December 2018. 

Leaders were invited to develop a visionary plan (PDF) to address critical issues facing the profession, establish professional leadership and mentoring programs, and provide input for the development of this 2020 plan.  Many identified strategies have become actions in the 2020 outdoor recreation plan.

Pennsylvania’s Trail Network Strategy

DCNR is also updating the 2014-2019 Pennsylvania Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan (PDF), which provides the goals and recommendations for development of a statewide network of greenways and trails.

The 2020-2024 trail plan (PDF)  is scheduled for completion in fall 2020, and will be a companion document to the 2020-2024 Pennsylvania Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

To update the existing trails plan, DCNR has analyzed existing data and input from external stakeholders and partners through surveys and facilitated discussions, completed an assessment of the 2014 plan’s progress, and reached out to all specialized trail user groups.

Public feedback was collected on the draft recommendations and action steps in June 2020.