On September 27, 2022, Pennsylvania announced three new state park projects, representing $45 million of state investment.
One of the three new state parks, Susquehanna Riverlands State Park (though the name may change as the development process unfolds between now and the scheduled debut of the park in 2026), is located in Hellam Township, York County, along the western edge of the Susquehanna River.
The new state park is a largely wooded tract located where the Codorus Creek flows into the Susquehanna River. It protects critical water and forest resources. The York County park is adjacent to large tracts owned by the Lancaster Conservancy—the former Boy Scout camp Wizard Ranch and the Hellam Hills Nature Preserve.
According to the Lancaster Conservancy, this new state park, as well as the Conservancy’s two existing nature preserves, make up the Hellam Hills Conservation Area and protect a combined 2,100 acres of contiguous forests – preserving the last large, wooded area along the Susquehanna River between the cities of Harrisburg, York, and Lancaster.
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said the state recently purchased the York County property.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to serve the public in a way that the public demands of us,” Dunn said. “People came out in droves during the pandemic and reaffirmed their interest in parks.”
The York park, with the working name Susquehanna Riverlands, currently costs $20 million in land purchase and development costs.
With the announcement of this project, the Lancaster Conservancy also crosses an organizational milestone, as they have now been involved in the permanent conservation of over 10,000 acres of land.
Said Lancaster Conservancy President Phil Wenger: “By transferring this property to PA DCNR, the Conservancy can free up funds to go after the many other acquisition opportunities that are currently on the table, knowing this critical wooded tract is protected, forever. Our work doesn’t stop with this announcement. We will continue to protect open space, build trails, and create opportunities for hunting and recreation. We are in a race against time and only by joining together, with public and private resources working across the landscape, will we achieve the success future generations rely on.” For more perspective on the project from Wenger, including a behind-the-scenes window into the process that led to this partnership effort between DCNR, Lancaster Conservancy, and York County and local municipal government entities, see Lancaster Conservancy’s website news post on the project.
“This property has been on the radar of conservation groups for years,” said Kate Gonick, the Conservancy’s Senior Vice President of Land Protection and General Counsel. “It protects water resources, upland forests, and fields in a highly valued prioritized natural landscape. We are thrilled that the Commonwealth recognized its significance and chose to work with the Conservancy to develop a new state park.”