PA budget should prioritize parks

Louetta R. Clark

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June is always a fast paced time for the PA Typical Assembly going through a June 30 deadline to balance the state’s spending budget for the following 12 months and it is a way of environment the commonwealth’s priorities and funding for those people items which are significant to Pennsylvanians at this time. In this time of partisan bickering and name contacting, there is 1 thing that nearly all Pennsylvanians concur on — getting treatment of our state parks and forests.

A the latest poll showed that more than two-thirds (67%) of Pennsylvania likely voters assistance working with as a great deal as $125 million of the state’s share of federal American Rescue Plan’s funding for upkeep and repairs of condition parks and forests. What is incredible about this poll, which was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, is that this support is bipartisan, and irrespective of age, gender, geography, or ethnicity.

Republican Kate Harper served the 61st District as a state representative from 2001 to 2019.

Republican Kate Harper served the 61st District as a point out consultant from 2001 to 2019.

Of course, investing in point out parks and forests can make great financial feeling. Guests obtain hotel rooms, dinners, souvenirs and devices. This tourism expending results in firms and positions, which guide to much more investment decision and tax revenues. Out of the 50 states, Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the country in phrases of purchaser shelling out on outdoor recreation. We adore our outside.

This generates $29.1 billion in client expending per year, supporting 251,000 positions and developing $1.9 billion in state and regional tax earnings.

And, as all people understands (or should really), our open areas, like those people in our point out parks and forests, offer environmental positive aspects this sort of as water filtration, air excellent enhancement, and flood command. In simple fact, when they have been informed that point out forests serve as a purely natural filter to clear away dangerous pollutants from Pennsylvania streams, rivers and lakes, aid between these requested in the poll rose to an astonishing 79% among the most likely voters for funding to secure clean up water and minimize flooding. Which politician working for everything this year would not want attractiveness quantities like that? Did I mention that the overall PA Home and fifty percent of the Senate is up for election?

Ironically, the COVID pandemic launched our state parks and forests to a full new group seeking risk-free out of doors recreation spaces for on their own and their people. In the earlier two yrs, report quantities of people today sought fresh new air, recreation, and mental wellbeing at Pennsylvania’s 121 condition parks. In 2020, a lot more than 45 million folks visited a condition park. In 2021, as the pandemic waned, the range dropped rather but remained well earlier mentioned the pre-pandemic degrees. As soon as individuals experience our state parks and forests, they hold coming back again.

Having said that, the inflow of new readers genuinely showed the have to have for repair service, upkeep and improvement of our parks’ infrastructure. Sustaining and restoring that infrastructure demands sources — team, funding, and materials.

Sadly, Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests encounter a $1.4 billion backlog of infrastructure renovations and deferred maintenance, such as a lot-desired repairs to visitor centers, restrooms, cabins, drinking water and sewer program, roadways, and bridges. The Section of Conservation and Natural Assets has been underfunded for several years and could truly put the American Rescue Prepare funding to good use — one that added benefits all Pennsylvanians, irrespective of whether they delight in tenting or mountaineering, just getting in our state parks or forests or simply just value the cleaner air and h2o the open up lands offer.

The revenue is out there now and desired now for our parks. This calendar year, when there are so lots of challenges these days that divide us as Pennsylvanians and Americans, it is refreshing to locate an difficulty — supporting our parks and forests — that brings us with each other.

So get on the cell phone, end in at their local office environment or e mail your state legislator (or go to the paparksandforest.org web page for support in how to do this), and allow them know you treatment about our parks and forests and you want them to make guaranteed infrastructure funding is involved in this year’s price range.

Republican Kate Harper served the 61st District as a state representative from 2001 to 2019. The Montgomery County district includes Upper Gwynedd, Towamencin, North Wales and sections of Decreased Gwynedd and Whitpain. She is a member of the PA Parks and Forests Foundation Board.

This post at first appeared on Bucks County Courier Periods: Guest Feeling: Earmark American Rescue Plan resources for PA parks

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