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DCNR secretary stresses need for investing in parks


Investing heavily in Pennsylvania’s state parks and recreational areas would be money well spent, state and local officials emphasized during an Oct. 12 news conference in Yardley Borough.
Gathering on the banks of the Delaware Canal, which is part of the state parks system, they said the $75 million in infrastructure needs for the canal is one piece of $1.4 billion in repairs and improvements needed statewide.
The 58.9-mile Delaware Canal, originally constructed in 1827, stretches from Easton in Northampton County to Bristol in Bucks County.
“Delaware Canal State Park is increasingly facing operating challenges that could begin to impact its more than one million annual visitors,” said Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the agency that operates state parks and recreational areas.
“Many of the normal wear-and-tear repairs have also been exacerbated by the effects of climate change and flooding from extreme weather,” she continued. “It serves as a reminder that our trails, dams, campgrounds, bridges and educational centers require a financial investment.”

Dunn and other officials made two stops in Bucks County on Oct. 12 to press their case for greater investment in state parks. They held a news conference along the canal in Upper Black Eddy prior to the one in Yardley Borough.
Such an investment will pay dividends, Dunn and others said. Outdoor recreation is a $29 billion industry in Pennsylvania that directly supports 251,000 jobs and returns $12.41 for every dollar invested, they noted.
The last major investment in state parks and recreational lands was the 2005 Growing Greener II Initiative that funded hundreds of trail projects, conserved thousands of acres of threatened open space and helped with hundreds of water projects to reduce pollution and flooding, the officials added.
“We function from initiative to initiative,” Dunn said. “It would be nice if there was a more consistent funding source. We need an infusion of money to bring the infrastructure back up.”

Democratic state Sen. Steve Santarsiero of Lower Makefield echoed those sentiments. He said the 10th Senatorial District that he represents includes more of the Delaware Canal than any other district.
“During the pandemic, we all had opportunities to rediscover the outdoors,” Santarsiero said at the Yardley news conference.
“That highlighted the fact that for too long we have put off investment in our park system. It’s something we absolutely need to invest in, and I think doing that would bring people in even greater numbers to our parks.”
Delaware Canal State Park Operations Manager Devin Buzard said the canal’s Lock 5 area where the Yardley event was held needs about $1 million in work just by itself.
Dunn, Santarsiero and others urged the passage of Senate Bill 525 under consideration in Harrisburg. It would provide around $225 million for needed state parks infrastructure work, Dunn said.
Officials who support the bill hope it can be funded by Pennsylvania’s share of money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Yardley Borough resident Susan Taylor, chair of the Delaware Canal State Park Advisory Committee and former director of Friends of the Canal, said she and many others are ready to help in whatever way they can.
“The Delaware Canal has had a community of people concerned about it ever since shovels first broke the ground in 1827,” she said.

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