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Enhance Stewardship and Management of State Park and Forest Lands

The major DCNR accomplishments of 2021 to enhance the stewardship and management of state park and forest lands are listed below.

State Park Strategic Planning -- Penn’s Parks for All

Penn’s Parks for All -- A Plan for Pennsylvania’s State Parks of Tomorrow (PDF) was released to the public in 2021 at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Public comments on the recommendations were solicited through early 2020, as was input from DCNR stakeholder groups. More than 1,125 public comments were received. There are 87 strategies in the plan to sustain Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks and make them welcoming to all.

State Forest Action Plan

DCNR finalized a State Forest Action Plan (PDF), which assesses the condition of Pennsylvania forests and sets a framework for strategies for long-term forest sustainability in the commonwealth. The 681-page plan highlights current conditions and trends of forests, delineates priority landscapes, and provides a suite of broad strategies to ensure the long-term sustainability of Pennsylvania’s forests and trees. In addition to making recommendations for all public and private forests in Pennsylvania, the plan also includes stakeholders and partners to help ensure a shared vision and coordinated efforts.

Pandemic Response

Person, standing , indoors, building, cleaning, mask 

Pennsylvania state park and forest lands have remained open and accessible to all during the pandemic for outdoor recreation that is important to mental and physical health. There were more than 42 million visits to state parks in 2021, as compared to 37 million in 2019, the last year before the impacts of COVID-19. In April of 2021, DCNR implemented a return to outdoor programming at state parks and expansion of occupancy limits within park and state forest buildings.

In 2021 the DCNR Bureau of State Parks staff was recognized for ongoing efforts keep Pennsylvania’s 121 parks open and safe for visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for finding new ways to engage the public through virtual programming.

The work done by Custodian Jeff Dacus at Presque Isle State Park in Erie represents the extra steps DCNR staff took to increase cleaning procedures to meet COVID-19 mitigation protocols so visitors had comfort facilities available. Natural resource specialist Tim Morey, who works as an educator at parks in the Pennsylvania Wilds in the northcentral region, showed creativity and adaptability at Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County to bring the stars to new audiences.

Climate Change Mitigation

The department joined with the GreenGov Council and DEP to form the commonwealth’s Climate Leadership Academy. The academy will support the work of Pennsylvania state agencies and develop a community of climate smart leaders through its training and solutions development activities.

The bureaus of Forestry and State Parks implemented numerous natural resource related adaptation strategies in 2021. Notable among them was completion of Dynamic Forest Restoration Block plans for Laurel Ridge and Ohiopyle state parks. This is a sustainable approach to forest management that creates a mosaic of trees of different ages and species, which grow and change over time while preserving healthy habitat for forest birds and other wildlife.

Through sound, science-based management, the Bureau of Forestry maintained the health and resilience of the 2.2-million-acre state forest system, which resulted in the sequestration of an estimated 5.5 million tons of carbon.

Infrastructure Investments

Outdoors, road, forest, gravel, machine, person, nature

DCNR has assessed more than $1.4 billion in funding needs for repairs and is working with state and federal officials to identify funding for those needs.

Projects to maintain and improve the vast state park and forest infrastructure continued in 2021.

Highlights include:

Masten Road Reconstruction, Loyalsock State Forest

DCNR directed the reconstruction of Masten Road in Pleasant Stream Valley, Lycoming County. The completed project restores access to a large expanse of state forest that has been inaccessible since the October 2016 flood.

Trail Construction, Rothrock State Forest

Construction of a professionally designed, front-country style trail as a grant match was begun for what will become a new, 60-mile trail system within Rothrock State Forest.

Washington Crossing Historic Park Structural Investments

 A project to conserve and improve 17 historic and other structures at Washington Crossing Historic Park in in Bucks County began in 2021. The $8.7 million project includes interior, exterior, plumbing masonry, parking lot and other improvements of a number of buildings on site the 500-acre park that lies along the Delaware River.

S.B Elliot State Park New Drinking Water Treatment System

A nearly $50 million drinking water system rehabilitation project was completed in 2021, ensuring the park can now supply consistent amounts of water to meet visitors drinking needs, while also providing water for restrooms, shower, and other needs.

Little Buffalo State Park Project Completed

Historic preservation efforts at Little Buffalo State Park were completed in 2021, including updates to the Historic Residence and to Blue Bell Tavern, restoring life to the beautiful structures, which fall under a registered National Historic District.

New Swimming Pool Complex Completed at Ryerson State Park

A newly renovated campground opened at the park in 2021. A new pool complex was completed after the swimming season and is ready for a grand opening in 2022. Other key improvements as a part of the project include a new showerhouse, filter and control room, a solar array that also provides shade for the parking lot, and a waterslide and water playground.

Full-Service Campsite Projects

State Parks continued to invest in upgrading the campgrounds in their system in 2021. This past year, construction was completed at the campgrounds at Codorus, French Creek, and Ricketts Glen state parks. Improvements at Codorus and French Creek included lengthening existing sites to accommodate larger RVs and campers, upgrading existing electrical services, and providing new electric, sewer, and water service to many individual campsites. The Ricketts Glen project added an entire new loop to the campground with both back-in and pull through sites, all with electric, sewer, and water service.

Dam Repair and Removal

DCNR continues to be proactive in the repair and maintenance of their dams. In 2021, the department awarded three Design-Build contracts for either routine maintenance items and repairs or for dam removals including six dams managed by the Bureau of Forestry and 35 dams by the Bureau of State Parks.

Park Waste Reduction

Beginning with concession agreements that expired in 2020, DCNR incorporated new language into the agreements that will help reduce the amount of waste generated at park facilities, divert waste from landfills by way of composting, and prohibit materials that are deleterious to the environment.

As concessionaire contracts expire in the future this language will be added. The contracts also encourage recycling of materials and more waste recovery and diversion from landfills by incorporating composting at select locations where feasible.

Cultural Resource Management

Outdoors, people, dirt, holes, shovels, screening

DCNR hired a program coordinator to manage cultural resources at state parks and across DCNR properties. Since the program’s inception, consultation or review of 70 projects has gotten underway or been completed, greatly improving the speed and efficiency of cultural review while also maintaining DCNR’s responsibility for good stewardship of resources.

A seasonal Cultural Resources Crew was also created as a part of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps program run with the support of the Student Conservation Association (SCA). DCNR has the largest number of known cultural resources of significance on its lands than any other state agency.

Protecting Visitors Health

In cooperation with the Department of Health, DCNR again expanded its free sunscreen program at 22 state parks where dispensers are now located. The effort reached an estimated million visitors to state park beaches and swimming pools. DCNR plans to again expand efforts to more state parks in 2022.

Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP)

In 2021, DCNR was granted DMAP coupons in 105 units on state forest lands in its continued effort to control the deer population in vulnerable and severely impacted tracts. State parks reported more than 3,200 tags were issued at the 26 state parks involved in the program.

Sustainable Forest Management

For the third consecutive year, the Bureau of Forestry successfully passed its audit to maintain dual certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). Meeting the rigorous standards for certifications of both the FSC and SFI ensures that state forests are managed to the highest third-party standards.

Timber Management

The Bureau of Forestry contracted for the harvesting of approximately 11,600 acres of timber on state forest land, providing about $22 million in revenue for the commonwealth. While helping to maintain forest health, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)-certified timber harvesting program provides renewable wood products to consumers, supports local jobs and industry, and creates early successional forests that benefit wildlife.

Woodland Stewardship

Service foresters assisted 1,101 private landowners in 2021, and together with partners educated 44,215 forest landowners. Service foresters also gave 48 presentations, reaching about 3,759 audience members.

Road Maintenance -- Dirt and Gravel Roads Program

More than 20 road projects were funded with money from Dirt and Gravel Roads Program to safeguard watersheds and provide sound recreational and operational access to the state forest. The bureau continues to work with Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads and will be investigating opportunities to author an administrative manual next year.

Invasive Species Management Plan

State parks and state forest staff began implementing a Statewide DCNR Invasive Species Management Plan to safely address the invaders that threaten our native plants and wildlife.

Invasive Plant Management

DCNR continued its effort to control invasive plants across the state. The Bureau of Forestry treated more than 1,000 acres of invasive plants in 2021. During the 2021 field season, 15 new populations of high-priority invasive species were located and eradicated using Early Detection Rapid response (EDRR) protocols. The EDRR approach limits the spread of high-priority invasive species. 

State Foresters Centennial National Conference

Indoors, people, stage, speaker, woman, presentation

DCNR coordinated and directed the 100th meeting of the National Association of State Foresters, celebrating the milestone in Pittsburgh. The first meeting of the association also was held in Pennsylvania.

State Park Directors National Conference

DCNR successfully hosted the 2021 National Association of State Park Directors Conference in September, showing off the exemplary work of DCNR staff in collaboration with the national organization in the Laurel Highlands region.

Field Conference of Pennsylvania Geologists

The 85th Annual Field Conference of Pennsylvania Geologists focused on the geology of Ohiopyle State Park and surrounding areas in the Laurel Highlands, including the evolutionary history of the landscape.