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Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn has announced the release of a preliminary report gleaned from an extensive two-year survey seeking public input on the future of Pennsylvanian’s state parks.

“Commenting on everything from pets in campgrounds to trails and beaches, thousands commented on what they like, dislike and hope to see someday in their state parks,” Dunn said. “This information shaped recommendations that will help in the creation of a strategic plan to ensure the Pennsylvania state park system remains as relevant and valuable to future generations as it has been to current and past generations.”

In response to the release of the preliminary report, the Bureau of State Parks’ website now features downloadable information detailing survey findings. It also includes a public comment tool to address recommendations suggested as a result of this input. Also, Kings Gap Environmental Education Center and other parks across the state will be scheduling public meetings.

The public input meeting for Kings Gap Environmental Education Center will be in the center’s Education Building on Nov. 19 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Immediately following the input meeting the Friends of Kings Gap will be holding its monthly board meeting. Both meetings are open to the public and include refreshments. The Education Building is located at 500 Kings Gap Road, Carlisle, PA 17015.

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“As part of an effort to stimulate and encourage public input in this effort, I am requesting all park and park complex managers to schedule public informational meetings before mid-December of this year for Friends Groups, stakeholders, park visitors and the public,” said Bureau of State Parks Director John Hallas. “This will provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about the preliminary report and how to provide comments through the bureau’s website.”

Report recommendations

Recommendations in this “Penn’s Parks for All” report address:

  • Improvement of outdoor recreation opportunities
  • expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities
  • protection of resources from recreation impacts
  • offering of more “active adventure activities”
  • expansion of overnight accommodations
  • protection of parks’ natural and cultural resources
  • parks’ financial support
  • improved services and facilities.

A summary of results from the various surveys, along with proposed recommendations to guide the management of Pennsylvania state parks for the next 25 years, can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources website.

Penn State conducted a series of surveys in 2017 and 2018 about park visitors and the public’s attitudes and opinions on key issues affecting the future of the state parks.

In 2017, 10,186 adults responded online and 4,090 answered surveys at parks. A 2018 statewide telephone effort reached out to 1,650 Pennsylvanians. An online survey the same year targeted 1,131 Latinos, Asians and African Americans.

Public comment on these survey responses and recommendations will be accepted online and in writing until December 31.

How to Participate

For online participation, visit the Penn’s Parks for All Preliminary Report (PDF). Address written comments to: PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Bureau of State Parks’ Planning Section, P.O. Box 8551, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8551.

Stakeholder meetings will take place at state parks throughout the state this fall and early next year. A final report should be available in summer 2020.

It has been 25 years since DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks underwent its last strategic planning effort — StateParks 2000. That effort guided state park improvements that included the modernization of facilities; expanded environmental education programs; and designated natural areas in order to better protect sensitive or special natural resources.

Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks total almost 300,000 acres. Together with DCNR’s state forest system, they are one of the largest expanses of public lands in the eastern United States.

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