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Benefit Communities and Citizens Through Investments in Conservation and Recreational Resources

The major DCNR accomplishments of 2018 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. The national award was conferred on the commonwealth for both 2014-2019 and the 2009-2014 plans.

The 2014 plan included a set of strategic pilot initiatives including Brownfields to Playfields, Nature Play, Health and Wellness, and top 10 Trail Gaps. 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

A three-year period ending in 2018 saw almost $59 million invested in 472 community park projects, with emphasis on rehabilitation of existing parks.  With more than 6,000 local parks across the state, they support most recreation in Pennsylvania. They also play important roles in resident the health and wellness, while driving the state’s outdoor recreation economy.

Closing Trail Gaps

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. Both the 300-foot-long bridge across the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe, along the D&L Trail and connecting more than 90 miles of open trail; and the rehabilitated 517-foot-long Climax Tunnel on the Redbank Valley Trail, Clarion County, opened in 2018.

In total, DCNR Invested $34.2 million through 177 trail projects, leveraging $87 million which helped close 41 trail gaps. 

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. “Explore Archery” programming continues to grow. 116 events were offered reaching more than 1,950 visitors.

Community Investment

Projects Aided Throughout Pennsylvania

DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation was the driving force behind DCNR’s announcement late last year that an investment of $50 million for 280 projects across Pennsylvania will create new recreational opportunities, conserve natural resources, and help revitalize local communities.

New Grant Programs/Opportunities

For the second year in 2018, the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation offered two new grant opportunities:

  • A Riparian Forest Buffers Program funded with $1 million in PENNVEST funds
  • A new Motorized Trails Program that implements new recent 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.

Denton Hill State Park

DCNR completed a master plan for recreation of the park’s well-loved ski area in a way that celebrates all four seasons, while preserving the parks skiing legacy. The plan was presented to the public and stakeholders in May 2018. 

Currently, the Bureau of State Parks is moving to solicit proposals for a potential concessionaire, as well as a funded capital project, to make necessary improvements and repairs to re-open the facility for downhill skiing and four-season recreation.

Cherry Springs State Park

DCNR’s master planning team is designing a funded construction project to make improvements that will enhance the Dark Sky public programming area, as well as the overnight astronomy area.

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 fall 2018, an initial workshop was offered for 30 educators at Sinnemahoning State Park.

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. More than $23 million has been invested in DCNR’s seven conservation landscapes, Pennsylvania’s 12 Heritage Areas, and other statewide and regional partners that help implement these statewide priorities:

  • Building long-distance destination trails
  • Advancing trail towns
  • Connecting youth to the outdoors
  • Protecting natural resources like the Susquehanna River and Kittatinny Ridge

Recent conservation landscape achievements include:

Lehigh Valley Greenways

Led by a coalition of our trail partners, The LINK Trail Network was officially launched in November. With generous support from the William Penn Foundation, The LINK is a partnership between Lehigh Valley nonprofits, state, and local governments to create an interconnected trail network of 125 miles of trail with plans for 100 additional miles to soon close priority trail gaps.

PA Wilds

The region’s burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem, powered by the PA Wilds brand, saw strong growth over the past year, with close to $250,000 in sales at the PA Wilds Center’s flagship store, the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park. The shop, in addition to a new E-commerce platform, creates unprecedented economic opportunity for local producers and artisans while providing a stellar visitor experience that weaves together hospitality, PA Wilds branding, and a stewardship message born out of the region’s legacy of conservation and investment in its public lands.

Pocono Forest and Waters

Over the past year, land trust partners, including the Pocono & Kittatinny and the Upper Lehigh clusters of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, conserved approximately 2,900 acres in a coordinated effort to protect water quality and quantity, protect critical wildlife habitat, and create outdoor recreational opportunities.

Included were acquisition of:

  • The 1,132-acre Wanamie property and 389-acre Crystal Lake tract, both of which were transferred to Pinchot State Forest
  • The 70-acre Lower Smith Gap Road tract, transferred to the Pennsylvania Game Commission
  • 450 acres along the Kittatinny Ridge and 500 acres Lehigh River headwaters

Schuylkill Highlands

Nearly 1,000 acres were preserved by our five partner conservancies on 19 properties. The projects were spread over Berks, Chester, and Bucks Counties. Four parcels -- 299 acres -- were transferred to the Bureau of Forestry, adding to the William Penn Forest District.

The OUTHERE Adventure Challenge kicked off incentivizing kids to get outdoors, and our annual legislative breakfast/ annual meeting captured a full house of our loyal conservation landscape partners.

Susquehanna Riverlands

The external lead of the Susquehanna Riverlands, the Lancaster County Conservancy, will be able to preserve an additional 330 acres of land along the Susquehanna River in Lancaster and York counties. These lands provide access to the Susquehanna River for recreational activities, preserve important wildlife habitat, secure public right of way for the Mason Dixon Trail, and improve water quality.