On July 12th, Governor Tom Wolf announced on Twitter, “Big news: Pennsylvania is getting three new state parks,” the first new parks in the state since 2005.
The announcement came after Pennsylvania solidified its 2022-23 state budget, which allocates “$696 million for conservation, recreation, and preservation,” according to a budget press release. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) will receive $151 million, including $56 million for the additional 3 parks, adding to the state’s roster of 121 state parks that cover 300,000 acres of land.
The funding will also go towards creating the state’s first park for ATV and motorized vehicle use.
“Having secured the funding, [the DCNR] is now working to finalize the land acquisitions that will increase the public’s access to close-to-home, healthy outdoor recreation,” said DCNR director of communications Christina Novak in a recent email.
A letter written by the DCNR Advisory Council stressed the importance of state park and forest maintenance and asked for a $29 million increase from the general fund to pay for services. “During the pandemic,” the letter reads, “we saw Pennsylvania citizens confirm the essential nature of our parks and forests, as these resources provided the needed space for maintaining physical and mental health.”
The council has also noted that a significant sum of money ($14 billion) is needed to improve the infrastructure for Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests, which includes 148 bridges in desperate need of repair.
Funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will fuel these projects and others across Pennsylvania. Hundreds of millions of the ARPA funds awarded to Pennsylvania have already been designated to conservation and environmental programs, as of the state’s budget approval on July 8th.
The influx of money, according to the secretary of the DCNR Christina Adams Dun, can be funneled into Philadelphia projects like work on the Delaware River and Schuylkill River trails, improved river access, and park rehabilitations.
Dunn also hinted at paving work at Ridley Creek State Park in Delaware County, refurbishing a historic building into a visitor center for Delaware Canal State Park in Bucks County, and work on a swimming pool at French Creek State Park in Chester County.
Dunn made little comment as to where the 3 new state parks will be located. She did, however, allude to the Philly region as one of the locations in an interview with the Inquirer. Dunn added that official announcements will likely be made in the fall.
“Our beautiful state parks are among the finest in the nation,” said Gov. Wolf in his Tuesday tweet. “I’m proud that we secured funding in this year’s budget to make this investment in our parks system.”