Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pennsylvania park closures (blame slashed funding)

Ohio's state parks aren't the only such recreational outlets subject to tough economic conditions.

Pennsylvania's state parks likewise are under legislative threat. That state's senate is proposing a budget that would take an additional $19 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources operating funds.

Like Ohio, entry into Pennsylvania's state parks and forests are free.

If enacted this budget would then force the agency to shutter at least 35 of its 117 state parks and also close 1,000 miles of state forest roads: Fully one-third of Pennsylvania's total forest road mileage.

These roads are heavily used by both anglers and hunters as well as hikers and ATV users. They provide access to stocked and wild trout fishing streams along with access to public hunting lands.

And the closure would turn away 3 million visitors to the state parks system and 'wipe out at least $57 million in visitor spending on products and services in nearby communities," said the DCNR's acting secretary, John Quigley.

A DCNR representative could not say which parks would close though they likely would be the state's smaller and less-visited units. Probably not likely to close would be either Pymatuning State Park or Presque Isle, both of which are popular with Northeast Ohio residents.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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