Pa. state parks, facing aging infrastructure, hope for severance tax-based plan

A couple spends the morning of Tuesday, July 18, 2017 fishing at Long Pine Run Reservoir in Michaux State Forest. (Markell DeLoatch/Public Opinion)

A couple spends the morning of Tuesday, July 18, 2017 fishing at Long Pine Run Reservoir in Michaux State Forest. (Markell DeLoatch/Public Opinion)

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is banking on Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s “Restore Pennsylvania” infrastructure plan to fix its aging parks. The governor’s plan would be funded by a severance tax to the natural gas industry, something Republicans in the legislature have repeatedly rejected.

The DCNR, which oversees 121 state parks and 2.2 million acres of state forests, is facing $1 billion in upcoming infrastructure costs, according to a recent Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation report.

DCNR spokesman Terry Brady said well-trod parks with large camping areas, such as Gifford Pinchot in York County, haven’t been updated since the 1970s.

He pointed to department secretary Cindy Adams Dunn’s recent visit to the park, where she found crumbling, bee-infested bath-and restroom facilities and campsites in need of significant upgrades.

“They’re clean, but they’re just old,” Brady said. “Our state parks are showing their age.”

Staffing for the parks also hasn’t increased in decades despite an increase in people using the parks, Brady said.

People do pay “modest” fees to stay at a campsite, Brady said. However, in Pennsylvania, people don’t have to pay to enter a state park, he noted. That isn’t the case in some other states.

Tom Wolf’s $4.5 billion plan faces serious opposition among Republicans. The House’s Republican majority leaders have said they agree that the state’s aging infrastructure needs attention but are opposed to a Marcellus Shale tax.

The governor’s plan would also go to fixing roads and dams, adding public transit and internet and other infrastructure and redevelopment projects.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.