The major DCNR accomplishments of 2020 to operate effectively and efficiently are listed below.
Construction on Level 2 electric vehicle public charging stations was completed at:
A total of 28 state parks now serve as proving grounds to improve accessibility and range for park visitors who drive plugin hybrid or full electric-powered vehicles.
DCNR continued to grow its plugin, electric vehicle fleet with the addition of two more E-cycles for state park rangers, which brings the agency total to 24.
Innovative Energy Efficiency Programs
DCNR completed the construction of the first phase of a Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) project in April 2020.
State parks in Region 2 in the western part of the state, as well as four forest districts, received energy-focused building system upgrades. With a total construction cost of $5.6 million, this project will save the commonwealth $7.5 million over 20 years.
Construction of the DCNR Phase 2 GESA project began in September 2020 and is anticipated to conclude in August 2021.
Two additional state park regions, as well as 12 forest districts, are receiving energy-focused building system upgrades. With a total construction cost of $16.5 million, this project will save the commonwealth $23.2 million over 20 years.
The Laurel Hill State Park Scenic View 104kW solar array project was completed in February 2020. DCNR's Bureau of Facility Design and Construction also completed design of large solar arrays in each state park region, submitted nine array projects for bidding, and began construction on three arrays.
Wildland Fire and Emergency Response
During the historic summer 2020 wildfire season in the West, almost 200 Bureau of Forestry and volunteer firefighters were deployed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Wyoming.
Assisting other states provides valuable training and experience for firefighters that can be applied when responding to future wildfires in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania also experienced an active wildfire year, with approximately 1,500 wildfires burning 3,000 acres. The largest fire of the year burned about 800 acres in Monroe County in early November.
Despite the pandemic, personnel were able to safely conduct 11 controlled burns on 500 acres of DCNR-managed land. About 75 personnel from the Bureau of Forestry assisted PEMA with logistics and incident management expertise during the spring COVID-19 response.
Virtual Environmental Education
As part of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the Bureau of State Parks continued to provide quality environmental education programs to students and all Pennsylvanians at sometimes virtually, and also throughout most of the summer in small groups practicing physical distancing and other safety measures.
One hundred-sixty virtual programs were offered to 3,537 participants.
As part of the Girl Scouts Love State Parks event in June, Cherry Springs State Park in the Pennsylvania Wilds offered virtual stargazing programs that were promoted nationally and attended by girls in 30 states.
During the period when they were teleworking, DCNR’s environmental educators also found unique ways to reach people virtually, including the song on converting lawn to meadows called
"Let it Grow" from Samuel Lewis State Park and a program on
identifying the invasive garlic mustard from Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center.
Find current virtual and self-guided programs on the
DCNR Calendar of Events.
Improved Customer Service and Efficiency at State Parks
DCNR is making it easier for organized, non-profit groups -- Girl and Boy Scouts, church youth groups, and adult organized groups -- to reserve organized group tenting sites. This process previously required reservations to be made via the call center.
Organizations can now book organized group sites online. The change resulted in an increase in organized group tenting revenue of 17.4 percent; nights occupied by groups increased by 16.4 percent; and reservations by 20.2 percent.
The Bureau of State Parks and Bureau of Forestry developed a
joint research application portal to streamline the application process.
This project took two separate application processes and combined them into one single interface, maintaining consistency across bureaus and eliminating confusion from the public on where to apply.
Terms and conditions are also listed up-front, so there is additional transparency on what researchers can and cannot do on state-owned lands.
In 2020, approximately 40 state forest research agreements were granted to a variety of researchers. Researchers agreed to abide by COVID-19 restrictions.
The DCNR Bureau of Facility Design and Constriction in 2020 set the foundation to transition to electronic bidding for construction contracts in 2021.
Advantages include convenience for bidders/ contractors who will be able to work on their bid from their home/office right up and until the last minute before it is due, and errors on bid forms by bidders will be minimized.
The Bureau of Facility Design and Construction implemented electronic signatures on construction documents, accelerated by the pandemic stay-at-home order. Since hand-signing documents was not an option during telework, existing software was reviewed and tested for electronic signature feasibility.
Increased transparency on where the document resides, and shorter turnaround times were made possible by this change.
Bureau of Forestry Electronic Permits
To decrease in-person interaction and help mitigate COVID-19, while preserving service to state residents, the Bureau of Forestry created and deployed a new statewide system for acquiring camping, firewood, and stone permits. The new system is integrated into GIS, providing opportunities for expanded analyses of these activities.
Geological Survey IT Infrastructure
The DCNR Bureau of Geological Survey implemented a new e-library to serve publications and other files to the public and to develop and test its new interactive web mapping application.
Staff also assisted with the testing and roll out of the DCNR’s massive new GIS infrastructure. Work continues modernizing the Pennsylvania Groundwater Information System (PaGWIS) and the WebDriller database.
These two databases together allow water well drillers to manage their annual licenses and enter required data for drilled wells which can then be accessed by the public.
The bureau also made substantial progress toward finalizing a workflow for creating elevation-derived hydrography for Pennsylvania. The new hydrography data will improve the accuracy of modeling water flow, quantity, and quality for better public health, safety, and sustainable use of this rich resource.
Field Conference of Pennsylvania Geologists
Originally scheduled as two days of field trips in Ohiopyle State Park and its environs, the Field Conference of Pennsylvania Geologists went virtual in 2020.
Eight videos highlighting aspects of the region’s geology were posted on YouTube for viewing at attendees’ convenience.
Two, live-evening, question and answer Zoom sessions with authors present were held on November 19 and 20. Registration topped out at 265, a higher number than could have been accommodated by the field trips and including some people who are unable to attend in person. As of December 17, the videos have 2,740 views by 685 unique viewers.