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Benefit Communities and Citizens Through Investments in Conservation and Recreational Resources

The major DCNR accomplishments of 2019 to benefit communities and citizens through investments in conservation and recreational resources are listed below.


Recreation Plans Implemented

DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation implemented major outdoor recreation initiatives guided by two national award-winning recreation plans.  DCNR completed extensive public input for Pennsylvania’s 2020-2024 Outdoor Recreation Plan. 

More than 8,600 Pennsylvanians provided input through an online survey. 

DCNR expects to release the final plan by June 2020. Outdoor recreation in the state generates $29.1 billion in consumer spending; $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue; $8.6 billion in wages and salaries; and sustains 251,000 direct Pennsylvania jobs.

Local Park Support


In 2019, DCNR invested an additional $15.3 million in 121 community park projects with repeated emphasis on rehabbing existing parks.

With more than 6,000 local parks throughout the state, they support most recreation in Pennsylvania. They also play important roles in health and wellness, while driving the state’s outdoor recreation economy.

Focus on Trails

Working with local trail partners, DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation oversaw investments of more than $11 million to construct in excess of 44 miles of new trail; help close 12 trail gaps; and rehabilitate more than 16 miles of existing trails.  

Public Picks Top Trail


The Mid State Trail was named Pennsylvania’s 2019 Trail of the Year.  The Mid State Trail is Pennsylvania’s longest trail at 327 miles, traversing through eight state parks and five state forests and stretching from the New York border south to the Maryland line.

… And Favorite Waterway

Cook Forest_Clear Creek.jpg

Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly voted in the Clarion River as the state’s 2019 River of the Year.

A wild and scenic waterway that draws legions of anglers, paddlers, and other outdoors enthusiasts, the Clarion flows 101 miles before joining the Allegheny River in Parker, Pa.

Community Investment

Projects Aided Throughout Pennsylvania

The Bureau of Recreation and Conservation was the driving force behind DCNR’s announcements late last year than an investment of more than $61 million for 284 projects across Pennsylvania will create new recreational opportunities, conserve natural resources, and help revitalize local communities.

Grant Programs/Opportunities

For the third consecutive year, DCNR offered two grant opportunities addressing the Riparian Forest Buffers Program, funded with $1 million in PENNVEST funds, and the Motorized Trails Program, that implements legislation creating two new funds -- one for snowmobiles and one for ATVs. 

The latter program has two open grant rounds every year per the legislative requirement. More than $1 million supported Pennsylvania’s motorized trails. 

There were 11 projects supported in funds that help purchase equipment;  study the feasibility of additional trails; and maintain and improve existing trails.

Conservation Education

Bay Watershed Education and Training

Overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, program funding permits DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks to partner with other agencies to oversee implementation of activities to include learning experiences both outdoors and in the classroom to increase understanding and stewardship of watersheds and related ocean, coastal, riverine, estuarine, and Great Lakes ecosystems. In 2019, seven workshops were offered to 67 educators and school administrators.

Regional Approaches

Conservation Landscapes

Several achievements can be shared about the Conservation Landscape Program this year. In addition to accomplishments in each of the eight landscapes highlighted below, DCNR also initiated an evaluation of the program that is now more than 15 years in practice. 

A public report detailing the results of the evaluation including best practices for landscape-scale collaboration and success around the state as well as recommendations for improving and sustaining the program, will be released this winter. 

Recent conservation landscape achievements include:

Kittatinny Ridge


This is the newest landscape which was added to the program in 2019.   Activities this year included completing the Lebanon County Return on Environment Report, conducting three bird-friendly forestry training sessions with public and private foresters, and launching a strategic planning effort to guide landscape priorities and partner engagement in the future. 

A partnership with Troegs brewery and The Nature Conservancy resulted in the release of Troeg’s Trail Day IPA Beer and the creation of a mural in downtown Harrisburg that highlights the beauty and importance of the ridge.

Laurel Highlands

Valuing Water Study -- Working through, Saltlick Township (recipient of a $40,000 DCNR grant), and Mountain Watershed Association, Fayette County (grant manager), a community and non-profit, within the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape, has been preparing an economic impact study to determine the value of water and healthy watersheds to local economies within the landscape -- including a resilience strategy to prioritize watershed protection and restoration efforts. The study is in draft form and should be finalized shortly.

A communication and implementation strategy for the study is a 2020 priority.

Lehigh Valley Greenways

The landscape partnership launched Lehigh Valley Green Retail Program in six local retail stores late in 2019, in order to provide opportunities for residents and visitors to directly support outdoor recreation in the Lehigh Valley.

Green Retail is a checkout charity format where customers at local shops, mostly trail-related businesses so far, are asked if they’d like to add a dollar or more to their payment to help create and maintain local trails and parks. More information available at the Lehigh Valley Greenways website

Pennsylvania Wilds

The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship Inc. (PA Wilds Center), a regional nonprofit and DCNR's external lead organization for the landscape, was awarded an $860,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) to accelerate growth of the landscape's entrepreneurial ecosystem that is built around the PA Wilds regional brand and a strategy balancing economic growth with conservation stewardship principles.

Nature tourism and outdoor recreation are a billion-dollar economic driver for rural communities in the Pennsylvania Wilds and this vibrant business cooperative exists because of the region's 2.4 million acres of public land and DCNR investments in visitor destinations and experiences, both intrinsically tied to the landscape's working forests.

​Pocono Forest and Waters

Pocono Forests and Waters advanced the protection of critical forest lands and watersheds throughout 2019 in addition to connecting our communities to the thriving natural resources of the region. 

Nearly 3,700 acres of forestland in Pike County were permanently protected through the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program as part of the Northeast Connection project.

Schuylkill Highlands

The landscape’s annual meeting hosted speakers John Jackson, PhD, senior scientist, Stroud Water Research Center and Greg Czarnecki, DCNR’s Director, Applied Climate Science.

They addressed climate change mitigation strategies and discussed how to leverage into efforts to protect the Schuylkill Highlands Landscape. 

Over the last year, conservancy partners, in collaboration with the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, also advanced land protection projects in Berks, Chester, Montgomery and Bucks counties.

South Mountain

Improving water quality in this region is strategically important if the state is to meet 2025 Chesapeake Bay Blueprint goals. This led the South Mountain Partnership to focus its efforts in 2019 on supporting Water Implementation Plan (WIP) teams and connecting municipalities and clean water volunteers. 

Successes included investing $23,500 in data and mapping services for each county’s WIP team in coordination with DEP through a Capacity Building grant from the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network, educating more than 570 individuals and organizations about how to assist with county WIPs, and hosting two watershed workshops that connected more than 80 organizations and individuals with technical expertise and resources and resurrected the Tri-County Watershed Association Meeting.

Susquehanna Riverlands

The landscape’s external lead, the Lancaster Conservancy, celebrated its 50th year of saving nature by protecting 949 acres in York and Lancaster counties (including the transfer of more than  828 acres in a single day)!

Comprising seven settlements across five municipalities, the conservancy worked with national, state, and local funding partners to protect critical water resources and tributaries emptying into the Susquehanna River and enhance public recreation in the Susquehanna Riverlands.