HARRISBURG, Pa. — Governor Wolf recently announced a $70 million dollar investment to improve recreation and conservation efforts across Pennsylvania.
This investment, in the form of grants, will help create and update public recreation spaces such as local parks. These are places that increased in popularity as the coronavirus pandemic spread, according to Tom Ford of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
“With the last years of COVID, everybody could see the importance of outdoor recreation opportunities close to home," Ford said. "Facilities were absolutely swamped. There was never higher demand for park and recreation resources and trails.”
Given this increase in public space use, Ford is even more excited to award 317 different grants to projects across the state.
“The department and...me, personally, are just really, really happy to be able to support close-to-home recreation and opportunities for people to be able to interact with the natural environment," he said.
Of the 317 funded projects, 152 are dedicated to recreation, park and conservation areas. 4,400 acres of open space will be protected, and grants will help fund 180 acres of streamside forest buffers. Plus, 48 projects will tackle motorized and non-motorized trails.
One of the recipients of multiple grants is Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. The organization plans to plant trees and shrubs on 70 acres of land along the Susquehanna River, creating buffer zones that protect riverbanks, prevent pollution and help the local ecosystem.
“We have a very significant role in the future of the Chesapeake Bay, and anything that we do to improve the health of the bay is also improving our quality of life and the quality of our local ecosystems," said Jenna Mitchell Beckett, the Pennsylvania director for Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
The organization will also expand on its Riparian Rangers program, which sends volunteers to check on the health of riparian buffer zones, the areas between waterways and land.
“That project is really, really cool because it makes a huge difference to have that extra set of eyes and extra, sort of, watch on what’s going on with our tree plantings," Beckett said.
Other projects in south central Pennsylvania include new walkways, trails and a gazebo at Furnace Run Nature Park in Southampton Township, Franklin County and funding for the East Hanover Township Community Park in Dauphin County.
Ford says DCNR is already in the first steps of getting these contracts moving.
For a full list of projects funded by this initiative, click here.