On January 28, the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation unveiled a new report on the maintenance needs of state park and forest infrastructure titled The Legacy of Pennsylvania Parks and Forests: The Future is in Our Hands. The event took place in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg and featured a slate of speakers who highlighted the need for increased funding for park and forest maintenance.

Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests are the vacation destination for over 40 million visitors a year. Our parks and forests are where our kids learn to camp, hike and make s’mores. They build memories with family and friends while also serving as economic engines for the Commonwealth. Yet they are in need of maintenance and repairs.

“In 2018 we celebrated the 125th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests with all citizens of Pennsylvania,” said Marci Mowery, “yet our parks and forests need care if we are to continue to celebrate the important roles they play in making Pennsylvania a great place to live, work and play. The legacy of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests is at risk due to inadequate funding levels to maintain and repair the bridges, roads, buildings, and recreational amenities that make our parks and forests so valuable to residents and visitors alike.”

Some facts about Pennsylvania state parks and forests maintenance needs:

$500 Million Maintenance Project Backlog: The maintenance project inventory has grown to more than $500 million for state parks and $500 million for state forests. Adequate funds have not been appropriated to rehabilitate or upgrade existing facilities and natural features such as roofs, sewer and water facilities, well plugging, bridges, managing impacts of invasive species, and roads.

Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation in terms of outdoor recreation spending, according to a recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association.

For every $1 invested, $12.41 is generated. Every dollar invested in our state parks and forests brings multiple benefits to the communities that surround them. In a 2010 study by Penn State, the return on taxpayer investment in our state parks alone was estimated at nearly $12.41 for every $1 invested.

Extensive Water, Sewage, Dam Infrastructure. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the agency that manages our state parks and forests, owns and operates 172 public water supplies, 70 wastewater treatment plants, 860 vehicular bridges, nearly 3,000 miles of public-use roads, 131 dams (including 47 high hazard dams), and more than 4,800 buildings, all of which require routine maintenance and repairs to remain operational.

Natural Infrastructure. Typically, infrastructure refers to buildings and roads, but state parks and forests include natural infrastructure as well. For instance, state forest staff must manage our high-quality forests for timber production. This includes cutting trees, controlling invasive species, collecting seeds, and planting seedlings, among other tasks. Maintaining natural infrastructure is an integral part of what DCNR does and from which all Pennsylvanians benefit.