Last Updated on October 19, 2020 by admin
The state price range crunch brought on by COVID-19 will pressure us to make arduous selections. One selection that isn’t arduous? The necessity to proceed investing in our state and native parks, trails and public lands. Which means protecting devoted funds just like the Keystone Fund and Environmental Stewardship Fund intact.
Within the chaos of COVID-19, we sought out parks, trails and public lands. These locations — close-to-home and so simply taken as a right — have grow to be protected havens within the storm. Locations that diminished our stress and restored our psychological well being. Locations that helped us train and escape our properties. Locations that strengthened household ties. Locations that gave us a way we had been nonetheless linked, even because the virus pressured us aside.
Public lands have seen document use throughout the pandemic. State park visits are up by greater than one million guests a month in contrast with final 12 months. Path use has elevated greater than 60 %. And outside tools gross sales are so excessive shops can’t hold bikes, kayaks and tenting gear on the cabinets. In brief, now we have relied on parks, trails, and public lands to assist get us by means of the pandemic.
Now’s the time to spend money on them, not minimize them.
These public outside recreation areas depend on devoted state funds. The Keystone and Environmental Stewardship Funds assist state park and forest infrastructure and supply grants to communities to construct and enhance parks, playgrounds, trails, boat launches and extra. The Pennsylvania Heritage Areas Program helps the growth of common trails throughout the state.
We are able to’t afford to let these locations deteriorate. This 12 months has confirmed that public lands are important infrastructure, each bit as essential as roads, bridges and faculties.
The state Division of Conservation and Pure Assets (DCNR) not too long ago introduced their 2020 group park grants. These grants draw closely on the Keystone and Environmental Stewardship Funds. Whereas a trigger for celebration, in addition they reveal what we’ll lose if we foolishly rob these devoted funds — important development and enhancements at our state parks and forests in addition to greater than 100 native parks throughout the state.
DCNR acquired over 400 grant functions in 2020 alone. Even with out cuts, solely about half of those tasks will probably be funded.
Devoted funds just like the Keystone and Environmental Stewardship Funds assist actual, on-the-ground tasks that profit our lives daily. They supply shovel-ready work to assist regrow our financial system.
And so they occur proper right here in our native communities. Keystone and Environmental Stewardship Fund tasks occur in each county. One in three native parks in Pennsylvania have acquired Keystone Fund assist, a lot of them within the Harrisburg space and Southcentral Pennsylvania area.
Our Pennsylvania Structure acknowledges the significance of the outside. Article 1, Part 27 reads partially: “The folks have a proper to wash air, pure water, and to the preservation of the pure, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the surroundings.”
The Keystone Fund, Environmental Stewardship Fund, and Heritage Areas Program are important to fulfilling these Constitutional rights. Now greater than ever, we should work tirelessly to defend them from makes an attempt by the state legislature to raid these funds for different functions.
Contact your legislator and strongly encourage them to vote NO on payments akin to HB 2004.
(Larry Williamson retired from the Division of Conservation and Pure Assets in 2008 because the senior adviser to the secretary of the division.)