Pennsylvania parks need more than $1.4 billion in infrastructure repairs

Pennsylvania’s parks need more investment for conservation and to address wear and tear on the 121 parks used by more than 42 million people last year.

Bicyclists take advantage of the multi-use trail at Ridley State Park in Media, Pa. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Bicyclists take advantage of the multi-use trail at Ridley State Park in Media, Pa. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has a list of repairs needed and improvements to be done to prep park lands for both extreme weather and the impacts of climate change.

DCNR deputy secretary John Norbeck said while Gov. Tom Wolf has designated $450 million in funds from federal COVID-19 relief for conservation and preservation efforts, the needs are much higher.

“Our wonderful network of state parks and forests are facing operating challenges because of critical infrastructure needs,” he said. “We must invest in our buildings, water systems, trails, dams, campgrounds, bridges, [and] educational centers to maintain visitor comfort and safety on public lands.”

He says the total cost of improvements and repairs needed tops $1.4 billion.

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Norbeck spoke Monday at Gifford Pinchot State Park south of Harrisburg. The 2,338-acre park features farm fields and wooded hillsides as well as the site’s main attraction, Pinchot Lake. Major challenges that need funding include replacing the park’s water distribution system, water treatment plant and sewage collection. It also needs new wells, dam repairs, and upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Pinchot is one of our premier parks, but it requires millions of dollars in improvements to ensure it continues to be a place that visitors can turn to as a healthy, safe respite,” he said.”

The department manages 121 state parks and 2.2 million acres of state forest lands. In 2021, more than 42 million people visited state parks, the second most ever in one year behind the record of nearly 47 million set amid the early months of the pandemic in 2020.

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