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The Legacy of Pennsylvania Parks and Forests: The Future Is in Our Hands

Report analyzing the economic and environmental value of Pennsylvania's state parks and forests, as well as the multi-million dollar maintenance backlog.

Key Report Findings:

  • Maintenance Backlog: The maintenance project inventory has grown to more than $500 million for state parks and $500 million for state forests. Adequate funds have not been appropriated to rehabilitate or upgrade existing facilities and natural features such as roofs, sewer and water facilities, well plugging, bridges, managing impacts of invasive species, and roads.
  • Return on Investment: For every $1 invested, $12.41 is generated. Every dollar invested in our state parks and forests brings multiple benefits to the communities that surround them. In a 2010 study by Penn State, the return on taxpayer investment in our state parks alone was estimated at nearly $12.41 for every $1 invested. Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation in terms of outdoor recreation spending, according to a recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association.
  • Extensive Water, Sewage, Dam Infrastructure: The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the agency that manages our state parks and forests, owns and operates 172 public water supplies, 70 wastewater treatment plants, 860 vehicular bridges, nearly 3,000 miles of public-use roads, 131 dams (including 47 high hazard dams), and more than 4,800 buildings, all of which require routine maintenance and repairs to remain operational.
  • Natural Infrastructure: Typically, infrastructure refers to buildings and roads, but state parks and forests include natural infrastructure as well. For instance, state forest staff must manage our high-quality forests for timber production. This includes cutting trees, controlling invasive species, collecting seeds, and planting seedlings, among other tasks. Maintaining natural infrastructure is an integral part of what DCNR does and from which all Pennsylvanians benefit.