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Benefit Communities and Citizens Through Investments in Conservation and Recreational Resources

The major DCNR accomplishments of 2017 to benefit communities and citizens through investments in conservation and recreational resources are listed below.

Recreation

Closing Trail Gaps

Placement of a bridge across the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe, along the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Trail
Working with local trail partners, the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation made significant progress closing two of Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Trail Gaps this year. Progress included:

  • Placement of a 300-foot-long bridge across the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe, along the D&L Trail that connects more than 90 miles of open trail
  • Completing the rehabilitation of the 517-foot-long Climax Tunnel on the Redbank Valley Trail, Clarion County.

Both projects are scheduled to be open to the public during spring 2018.

Downhill Skiing

Laurel Mountain State Park, in partnership with Seven Springs, held a grand opening ceremony during mid-January 2017 after completion of a $6.2 million capital project.

Skiing occurred at Laurel Mountain State Park for the first time in more than a decade.

Improvements included:

  • A new quad chair lift
  • 10 million gallons of additional water storage
  • New snowmaking equipment
  • Lodge renovations
  • Slope widening and improvements

Expanding Archery Programs in State Parks

Tapping a growing public interest in archery, the Bureau of State Parks is actively supplying instruction and equipment at parks, and training staff as instructors. During 2017:

  • 67 archery programs were offered
  • 1,279 attended the programs
  • Staff at 22 parks were trained to provide archery programs to visitors

ATVs

This year, DCNR continued to work with Larson Design Group to study connecting the Bloody Skillet trail system and the town of Renovo, Clinton County; and from Renovo to the Whiskey Springs ATV trail system near Snow Shoe in Clinton and Centre counties.

Two public meetings outlining a potential route were held during December 2017.

Community Investment

Managing Grant-Related Special Funds for Their Intended/Authorized Purposes

On December 5, 2017, DCNR announced $44 million for recreation and conservation through 266 grant investments across the state.

Grant investments include:

  • More than 100 projects to develop or rehabilitate recreation, park, and conservation areas
  • 49 trail projects
  • Nine projects for planting riparian buffers along streams
  • 14 projects for rivers conservation
  • Land conservation projects that will protect nearly 8,000 acres of open space

Land Conservation

DCNR provided grant funding for 29 land conservation projects totaling $11.5 million.

These local projects included 21 open space/critical habitat projects conserving nearly 7,000 acres, and seven community recreation projects conserving more than 1,000 acres for community park use, including Hays Woods which will become Pittsburgh’s second largest community park.

Also, DCNR will oversee allocation of a $2.42 million grant for land acquisition in the Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Area. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Economic Impact Report from Outdoor Industry Association

The Outdoor Industry Association recently documented Pennsylvania as having the 5th largest recreation economy in the nation. It found that:

  • More than half of Pennsylvania’s citizens participate in outdoor recreation
  • Outdoor recreation generates $29.1 billion in consumer spending annually and $1.9 billion in state and local tax receipts
  • Outdoor recreation supports 251,000 jobs, and wage and salary earnings total $8.6 billion

Community Parks

A family poses on new playground equipment at a community park.
Most recreation in the state occurs at local/community parks. Addressing this demand for close-to-home recreation, DCNR provided grant funding for more than 100 community park projects, totaling more than $14 million.

Sixty-six percent of these projects aligned with the Statewide Comprehensive Recreation Plan priority of rehabilitating existing parks, while also providing a $1 million investment into small community park projects (population 5,000 or less) for much-needed playground and park improvements.

During 2017, the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation also closed 75 community park and recreation projects, funded with nearly $8 million that leveraged an additional $8 million in local community park investment.

To promote the availability and use of local parks, the bureau reached its goal of mapping 6,000 local parks on Explore PA Local Parks, an online interactive map.

Brownfields to Playfields

DCNR is participating in a pilot program with DEP and DCED to transform seven sites of industrial blight into outdoor recreation spaces. The initiative was recognized with the 2017 State Program Innovation Award from the Environmental Council of States (ECOS).

During November, a project kicked off in Carlisle to transform the former location of Automotive Components and Masland Carpet into a community asset that includes a three-acre park.

New Grant Programs/Opportunities

During 2017, the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation fully developed two new grant opportunities:

A Riparian Forest Buffers Program funded this year with $1 million in PENNVEST funds.

The Motorized Trails Program that implements recent legislation creating two new funds -- one for snowmobiles and one for ATVs. This program will have two open grant rounds every year per the legislative requirement.

Conservation Education

Interpretive Exhibits, Project Learning Tree, and the State Envirothon

An interpretive display shows a deer in the forest at the Buchanan Forest District Resource Management Center.
The Buchanan Forest District Resource Management Center in McConnellsburg, now is home to exhibits connecting visitors to Pennsylvania’s forests. Visitors learn about:

  • The history of Pennsylvania and Buchanan State Forest
  • The unique forest habitat
  • Forest pests
  • Forest products
  • Recreation opportunities
  • How the Bureau of Forestry works to conserve the commonwealth’s forests and native plants

DCNR also enjoyed another productive year helping coordinate the state Envirothon Program and serving as the lead for Project Learning Tree.

National Conference Hosted

Bureau of State Parks’ Outdoor Programming Services Division hosted the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) during September 2017.

With support from the National Science Foundation Climate Change Education Partnership program, NNOCCI is working to establish a national network of professionals skilled in communicating and translating climate and ocean science to broad public audiences.

Regional Approaches

Conservation Landscapes

DCNR continues its focus on seven geographic areas of the state where a wealth of state park and forestlands; historical and cultural values; and lifestyles set them apart, and merit ongoing coordination and support.

Recent landscape achievements include:

Laurel Highlands

More than 100 stakeholders participated in the First Annual Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Gathering to share the good work of partners across the region including:

  • Mini-grant success stories
  • Land acquisition efforts
  • On-site projects completed by the PA Outdoor Corps at Laurel Hill State Park

Lehigh Valley Greenways

The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and Wildlands Conservancy received a $750,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation to help close critical gaps and create a trail brand and marketing strategy for the Lehigh Valley to increase support for continued trail funding.

PA Wilds

To support a new and reinvigorated regional marketing strategy, the PA Wilds Center overhauled the existing visitor website by highlighting different and unique “landscapes” and “journeys” that visitors can experience within the 12.5-county region.

Pocono Forest and Waters

As part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, land trust partners conserved more than 1,900 acres of land within two of the landscape’s watershed protection clusters, resulting in a coordinated effort to protect water quality and quantity within the watershed.

Schuylkill Highlands

A successful Schuylkill Highlands’ Summerfest, a pop-up festival held in Chester County, brought together landscape partners to discuss development opportunities and welcomed thousands of visitors to enjoy nature hikes, educational programs, and a children’s nature zone.

South Mountain

Through the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Regional Capacity Building Initiative, partners received funding for organizational, resource protection, and promotion projects, including communications support for Audubon Pennsylvania, Franklin County Visitor Bureau’s Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) Program, and strategic planning activities to assist the South Mountain Partnership with long term programmatic and financial sustainability.

Susquehanna Riverlands

View from the Pinnacle Overlook over the Susquehanna River
Landscape partners hosted DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards for an up-close and personal tour of the $5 million Low Grade Rail Trail’s Safe Harbor Trestle Bridge rehabilitation project that, when completed, will result in filling a significant trail gap and link to an additional 22 miles currently under construction.