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Enhance Stewardship and Management of State Park and Forest Lands

The major DCNR accomplishments of 2018 to enhance the stewardship and management of state park and forest lands are listed below.

State Park Excellence

Penn’s Parks for All

The Bureau of State Parks launched its “Penn’s Parks For All” initiative to plan for the next generation of state park users. A public survey asked Pennsylvanians about current and future recreation opportunities, overnight accommodations, modern conveniences, protecting parks, and paying for needed maintenance, services, and facilities.

Survey results now are being analyzed, but the bureau reports more than 14,000 people took the survey either online or in the parks between fall and spring 2018. A preliminary report and series of public meetings to share initial findings will be forthcoming later this year.

Improved Customer Service and Efficiency at State Parks

The enhanced reservation system for state parks -- which enables reservations to be made for campsite, cabin, and other facilities from a mobile application -- produced positive rewards once again. For the fiscal year, DCNR processed almost 213,000 reservations, a more than 11 percent increase since the reservation system converted to the enhanced system.

DCNR and the Bureau of State Parks will be undergoing a request for proposal for the system.  The current contract expires December 31, 2019. 

Park Officials Help Combat Opioid Epidemic

Since Governor Tom Wolf traveled to Gifford Pinchot State Park, York County, in 2017 to announce DCNR would be equipping more than 400 state park and state forest rangers, managers, and assistant managers with life-saving naloxone, it has been administered at least seven times.

Late last year, in conjunction with Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, DCNR and Department of Health officials joined Bureau of State Parks officials in discussing the importance of naloxone availability in Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests.

Smoke-Free Beaches

DCNR designated six more state park beach areas as smoke-free in May 2018:

  • Clear Creek
  • Shawnee
  • Presque Isle Beach No. 11
  • Pymatuning, Jamestown Campground Beach
  • Raccoon Creek
  • Yellow Creek

With 2018 additions, DCNR accomplished the following smoke-free beach goals:

  • All state parks that have swimming beaches now are in the smoke-free beach program
  • All parks that offer just one swimming beach are now smoke-free beaches
  • Every park with two swimming beaches now have at least one smoke-free beach
  • All four Pymatuning beaches are smoke-free and four of 11 beaches at Presque Isle are smoke-free

More ‘Pet-Friendly’ Camping

The Bureau of State Parks expanded the pet camping and cabin program in 2018 with the addition of 122 pet camping sites and 12 cabins/cottages/yurts. There also has been an increase in ADA dog-friendly cabins, now totaling 15 statewide.

Forest Management

New State Forester Named

Ellen M. Shultzabarger, who worked for 14 years in various positions in the Bureau of Forestry, was appointed state forester and bureau director in June 2018. She is the first woman to serve in those roles.

Public Engagement

The bureau wrapped up an unprecedented year of public engagement with the last of its 20 public meetings to discuss each forest district’s Resource Management Plan, the primary instrument the bureau uses to manage the state forest system.

Each district builds a local plan based on the bureau’s overall 2016 State Forest Resource Management Plan. Hundreds of people attended the 20 meetings across the state to hear how foresters are addressing issues of concern to them, like recreation access, gas development, and invasive species.

Timber Management

The Bureau of Forestry contracted for the harvesting of approximately 12,378 acres of timber on state forestland, providing about $20 million in revenue for the commonwealth, while stimulating $400 million in private-sector economic activity. While helping to maintain forest health, the timber harvesting program provides renewable wood products to consumers; supports local jobs and industry; and creates early-successional forests that benefit wildlife.

Good Neighbor Authority Agreement

The Bureau of Forestry entered into an agreement with the Allegheny National Forest (U.S. Forest Service) to share resources and cooperate to more efficiently achieve common management objectives.

State Forest Expansion

The bureau added 2,213 acres to the state forest system via land acquisitions in 2018. In a related move, the bureau was granted a conservation and recreation easement on 9,152 acres within the Elk State Forest District, securing into perpetuity recreational opportunities and open space for citizens, while keeping the tract a working forest.

Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP)

Established by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Deer Management Assistance Programs (DMAP) helps landowners whose lands are impacted by deer over-browsing or who have specific deer management goals that include harvesting additional antlerless deer. DCNR’s goal is for a healthy deer herd and a healthy forest that can provide a full suite of benefits and values to citizens.

The DMAP program allows DCNR to promote forest regeneration by targeting the most vulnerable and severely impacted tracts for additional antlerless deer harvests. In 2018, DCNR was granted 22,848 DMAP coupons in 83 units in its continued effort to control the deer population in vulnerable and severely impacted forest tracts. A total of 24 state park with 100,224 acres re-enrolled in DMAP.  A total of 2,548 coupons were offered and all parks except Presque Isle sold out.

Expansion of Interactive Hunting Map

The Bureau of Forestry collaborated with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to expand an interactive, online map that now incorporates State Game Lands.

Invasive Plant Management

The bureau  expanded its effort to control invasive plants across the state by releasing new bio controls, initiating new research, and increasing funding. The bureau treated almost 1,000 acres of invasive plants in 2018.

Successful Buffer Summit

The first DCNR Riparian Forest Buffer Summit was held on February 28 and March 1 in State College. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy was a critical partner in hosting and organizing the event, attended by 270 professionals.

Riparian Buffer Programs

DCNR awarded more than  $4.5 million in buffer grants within the Community Conservation Partnerships Program, PennVEST, TreeVitalize, and Stream Releaf programs. The total buffer acreage to be planted with grant funding is 970.

Infrastructure Investment

Delaware Canal State Park

Delaware Canal State Park was the scene of a challenging, 1,000-foot movement of an historic tavern, most recently known as Chez Odette. On October 24, the core of the historic building, dating to 1784, was relocated to a parcel of land adjacent to the Delaware Canal site known as the Lock Tender’s house.

The DCNR-owned property that originally housed the structure was needed to allow public access to the landlocked parcel where the 36-guest-room hotel is planned. The Odette's building, meanwhile, will be turned into an “interpretative” public space that introduces New Hope visitors to the history of Delaware Canal State Park.

Shikellamy State Park

Construction started in fall of 2018 on the redesign of the overlook point at the confluence of the west and main branches of the Susquehanna River, rededicated in 2017 as Kury Point, in honor of former state Sen. Franklin Kury. The area notes his work authoring Article 1, Section 27, of the Pennsylvania Constitution, known as the Environmental Rights Amendment.

Presque Isle State Park

Presque Isle State Park’s Beach 8 renovations were completed and opened to the public in July 2018. The $3.2-million-dollar capital project included new restrooms, concession building, and enhanced parking area with green storm water management features.

The project also enhanced the current multipurpose trail and added a beachfront walking/biking experience connecting to Beach 7. The next phase of the project will rehab Beach 6 amenities and connection of three main day-use beaches via multipurpose trail.

Cook Forest State Park

Construction on Cook Forest State Park’s office was completed. This 4,000-square foot facility serves as a tourism and recreation hub for visitor orientation and public contact. The new center includes interactive exhibits, public restroom facilities, an environmental education classroom, and a more spacious and efficient administrative area.

Exhibits are designed to provide visitors an opportunity to learn about the park’s history, distinctive old-growth white pine and hemlock forest, and recreational opportunities.

Hickory Run State Park

Construction began on the park’s new office and visitor center.  A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October. The facility will include a large exhibit hall, classroom, and administrative offices.

Little Buffalo State Park

Sediment totaling 30,000 cubic yards was removed from the lake in 2018. During the draw-down, the park also completed repairs on the toe drain of the dam; constructed a handicapped fishing pier; and installed a new fiberglass bridge to the dam tower.

Land Acquisition

A total of 187 acres were added to six state parks.