Environmentalists are worried about what will happen to parks throughout Pennsylvania if legislation is approved in Harrisburg to allow their quick sale.
Nicknamed the “Parks for Cash” bill, the measure is designed to allow sale of parkland in Pennsylvania without the court approval now needed.
Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Mike DiBerardinis says he’s concerned about the temptation to sell off public space for quick cash.
“For anybody who cares about public land, for anybody who manages public land, or for anybody who has an interest in maintaining the sanctity and the long term durable protection that it has that would be in jeopardy with this law,” he said
DiBerardinis gives as an example an attempt to sell part of Burholme Park a few years ago to expand the Fox Chase Cancer Center.
“The very process that protected that land would be taken out of commission and that sale probably would have happened,” he said.
In Chester County, Downingtown Councilwoman Ann Feldman says the legislation would trump her efforts to preserve Kardon Park, the site of an old limestone quarry, from housing and retail development.
“If the courts weren’t involved, and this was just left in the hand of the local government, then the park would be sold,” Feldman said.
Proponents of House Bill 2224, which the state Senate amended Wednesday, say it’s a way for cash-strapped municipalities to raise funds.
Downingtown officials, for instance, have considered sale of Kardon Park property to help pay for a new firehouse.
The Senate amended the bill to require a public hearing before any sale, but opponents say it does not provide enough protection.
DiBerardinis says he doesn’t believe Philadelphia would sell off parkland, but says you never know what the future may hold.
“Here in Philadelphia, as long as Mayor Nutter is the mayor and I am the commissioner, this stuff won’t happen. But I think in the long term, who knows?” he said. “Just taking away the protections that public land have now and degrading, that is really dangerous.”
The Senate is not expected to vote on the legislation until lawmakers reconvene Oct. 15.