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​Penn’s Parks for All

It’s been 25 years since DCNR's Bureau of State Parks underwent its last strategic planning effort -- StateParks 2000 -- which has guided state park improvements, including:

  • The modernization of facilities
  • Expanding environmental education program offerings
  • Designating natural areas in parks to better protect sensitive or special natural resources

The goal of the new strategic planning process -- Penn’s Parks for All -- is to help guide Pennsylvania’s state park professionals in carrying out the important work of caring for the 121 state parks in our system for the next 25 years.

Preliminary Report

A series of surveys was conducted by Penn State in 2017 and 2018 to assess the attitudes and opinions of Pennsylvania state park visitors and the public regarding key issues affecting the future of the state parks.

The results of these surveys will help inform the Penn’s Parks for All
strategic plan -- guiding DCNR’s work for the next 25 years.

Presented in the Penn's Parks for All Preliminary Report (PDF) is a summary of results from the various surveys , along with proposed recommendations to guide the management of Pennsylvania state parks for the future.

We invite all Pennsylvanians to review this report and provide comments.

Comment on Preliminary Report Recommendations

Please review the survey findings and recommendations below to provide comments to help shape the final plan for the state park system.

More detailed background information can be found in the Penn's Parks for All Preliminary Report (PDF).

Comments about the report may also be mailed to:

PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)
Bureau of State Parks
Planning Section
P.O. Box 8551
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8551

Comments will be accepted until December 31, 2019.

Draft Recommendations and Online Comment Forms

Expand AllClick here for a more accessible version

​1. Improving Outdoor Recreation Opportunities

Review recommendations on improving recreation opportunities and comment.

Survey Findings

There is strong public concurrence for a continued emphasis on healthful outdoor recreation activities with the expectation of quiet, natural, or wild experiences, with support for protective measures when park resource impacts are evident. Additionally, there was agreement that state parks should offer more active adventure experiences.

Draft Recommendations

Expand Outdoor Recreation Opportunities:

  • Enhance landscape-level partnerships to increase connections between publicly accessible lands, with the goals of gaining outdoor recreational efficiencies and minimizing duplication of outdoor recreational services.

  • Improve each park’s trail system to ensure trails are sustainable and accessible for those seeking healthy, quiet, and natural experiences, with a goal to develop in every park one trail loop that is accessible to all people.

  • Enhance water-based recreational offerings by developing innovative water facilities and activities, consistent with each park’s natural aesthetic and character. An example would be developing a water/splash play area with the look of boulders and rock ledges where natural water recreation amenities are not available.

  • Improve accessibility for water-based recreation by developing canoe and kayak launch sites for people with all abilities on all major recreational lakes within state parks.

  • Partner with the health industry in marketing state park outdoor recreational activities as a means of reducing obesity and stress and developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Protect Resources from Recreation Impacts:

  • Establish site-specific prescriptions to manage high-density outdoor recreation at parks where resources, visitor experiences, or communities are being impacted and develop viable solutions to address issues through stakeholder and community engagement.

Offer More Active Adventure Activities:

  • Partner with the outdoor recreation industry to build and promote active adventure activities that are consistent with the state parks mission through joint programming that provides educational opportunities for novice and experienced adventure seekers.

Provide Comments About Improving Outdoor Recreation Opportunities Recommendations

​2. Expanding Overnight Accommodations

Review recommendations on expanding overnight accomodations and comment.

​Survey Findings

There was strong public concurrence for the designation of quiet, wild, and remote camping experiences in state park campgrounds.

Draft Recommendations

Enhance the full spectrum of overnight opportunities in state parks by 2030, including:

  • Renovate campgrounds to enhance their natural character while providing additional privacy, accessibility, sustainability, and safety.

  • Increase pet-friendly campsites to 50 percent of all campsites (presently 37 percent).

  • Increase large, multi-family campsites to 50 sites statewide (presently five sites).

  • Add 100 more rental cabins.

  • Increase full-service campsites to 20 percent of all campsites (presently 5 percent).

  • Increase electric-only campsites to 50 percent of all campsites (presently 47 percent).

  • Increase remote, non-electric, walk-in sites.

  • Explore opportunities for “boat-in” waterfront camping.

  • Examine trends for new types of overnight facilities and institute pilot projects, such as building elevated camping cottages to simulate a treehouse effect.

Provide Comments About Expanding Overnight Accommodations Recommendations

​3. Protecting the Parks’ Natural & Cultural Resources

Review recommendations for protecting natural & cultural resources and comment.

​Survey Findings

There was strong public concurrence for improving state park aquatic resources and terrestrial native habitats, and expanding park lands in the commonwealth for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians, and high agreement that the Bureau should provide more support for volunteer efforts that assist park operations.

Draft Recommendations

Strengthen Resource Protection:

  • Increase professional staff levels by 15 percent to meet the Bureau of State Parks’ legislative mandate and constitutional trustee responsibilities.

  • Develop a night sky management program to conserve the night sky in state parks and enhance night sky viewing across the commonwealth.

  • Determine threats within state park watersheds that have the potential to impact park resources and work collaboratively with public and private partners to mitigate impacts.

  • Identify and fund prioritized cultural resources for restoration and engage cultural resource partners and the PA Historical and Museum Commission in completing historical restorations and utilizing historical structures for alternative uses.

  • Establish Bureau-level data management and mapping services using GIS to support the Bureau’s operations, recreational planning, and resource management needs.

  • Expand research and collection of scientific data to establish site-specific prescriptions that will conserve critical habitat and protect species of special concern.

  • Expand native habitat by converting remnant agricultural lands into pollinator meadows, native grasslands, and forests.

  • Expand construction of ponds, wetlands, rain gardens, bioswales, and other landscape to capture and treat stormwater running off parking lots, roads, and buildings located within park boundaries.

Improve Park Boundary Planning:

  • Dedicate a minimum of 2 percent of the Bureau’s operating budget annually for land acquisitions to eliminate inholdings, enhance boundary management, and protect and conserve outstanding natural, cultural, and outdoor recreational resources in the commonwealth.

  • Establish a sustainable boundary goal for each state park that will meet operational needs and support identified outdoor recreational activities, resource conservation, and park programs.

Enhance Resource Mitigation:

  • Identify, fund, and implement park-based projects that will mitigate the effects of climate change and that address habitat resiliency, riparian buffers, and lake and stream restoration.

  • Seek scientifically based compensation when private entities gain legal right-of-way access across state park lands when all alternatives to avoid park lands have been exhausted. This will serve to mitigate the resulting losses of ecological function and outdoor recreational use.

Improve Volunteer Program:

  • Work through major state park volunteer organizations to enhance relationships with volunteers. An example of an enhancement would be to develop an annual conservation volunteer summit to help retain and recruit volunteers, share new opportunities, and increase esprit de corps.

Provide Comments About Protecting Natural and Cultural Resources Recommendations

​4. Paying for State Parks

Review recommendations for paying for parks and comment.

Survey Findings

There is strong public concurrence that the commonwealth should increase funding to maintain, repair, and improve park facilities, and that increased funding occur without creating new fees or increasing existing costs to park visitors. In addition, there is mild support among 2017 survey respondents for converting low-usage parks to being more rustic with minimal facilities.

Draft Recommendations

Reduce Costs and Improve Efficiencies within State Parks:

  • Assess all current park buildings to determine their condition; and provide funding to renovate those buildings deemed mission critical while accelerating demotion of buildings that are costly to maintain and do not have historical significance.

  • Reduce energy consumption by 25 percent with the goal of deriving 50 percent of electric needs through renewable energy sources, working toward a goal of net-zero energy consumption of the built infrastructure in all parks.

  • Establish annual park-based maintenance plans to maximize staff efficiencies and use of resources to repair and restore park resources, facilities, and infrastructure.

  • Identify leaks in water distribution systems, then develop a prioritized list of critical water infrastructure projects and funding needed to renovate and construct water treatment infrastructure, thus conserving water and reducing annual operating costs.

Increase Funding for Maintenance Work:

  • Commit fees collected in state parks for the maintenance, repair, and improvement of park resources.

  • Ensure that conservation funding (e.g., the Keystone Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund) is used for stewardship purposes to repair and improve park resources. If necessary, provide a commensurate increase in annual state appropriations.

  • Pursue federal grants to augment state funding for park operations and maintenance.

Provide Comments About Paying for Parks Recommendations

5. ​Improving Services & Facilities

Review recommendations for improving services & facilities and comment.

​Survey Findings

There is high public satisfaction with the quality of services and facilities currently being offered at state parks. Constraints to using state parks appear to be few, but more work could be done to improve transportation opportunities to parks from urban areas.

Draft Recommendations

Expand use, access, and inclusion:

  • Develop a marketing campaign that will attract diverse, new, and inexperienced outdoor recreational users to the state parks.

  • Improve transportation options to broaden park access, particularly in urban areas, by partnering with public transportation agencies to improve utilization of bus and rail lines.

Improve Program Offerings and In-park Experiences:

  • Expand educational programming for all audiences on how to enjoy the state parks sustainably during their stay, with emphasis on understanding conservation of park resources and ecologically sensitive behavior.

  • Work with the educational community to expand integration of environmental education into the classroom, particularly in urban areas and in middle and high schools, resulting in new generations of supporters of the state park system.

  • Expand the use of social and electronic media, including development of smart mobile device applications, that enhance the state park experience for all Pennsylvanians.

  • Expand the Bureau’s public safety and outdoor recreational programming to increase visitor awareness of the inherent risks in visiting natural places and building skills and confidence, to better prepare for outdoor experiences.

  • Evaluate the more than 125 state park concession operations and implement improvements that will better serve the public. An example would be replacing a small food stand run by one concessionaire with a parking area designed for several food trucks, with the goal of enhancing flexibility and variety of refreshments for visitors.

Increase Employee Diversity:

  • Increase support for youth programs, such as the PA Outdoor Corps, that serve as a stepping stone to exposing promising youth to careers in DCNR and the Bureau of State Parks.

  • Develop programs to increase the diversity of state park staff to reflect the ethnicity of Pennsylvania citizens.

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

  • Utilize green building design where appropriate in facility construction and expand alternative energy generation (such as adding photovoltaic panels to buildings), with a goal of 50 percent of electricity derived from renewable sources by 2030.

  • Continue to add new electric-vehicle charging stations across the park system to support the statewide development of a public electric vehicle charging infrastructure network.

Provide Comments About Improving Services and Facilities Recommendations