At the January 27 meeting of DCNR’s Conservation & Natural Resources Advisory Council, the top officials at DCNR outlined what the unprecedented increase in visitor numbers during the pandemic has meant to our public lands.

They offered an overview of how the dramatic increase in visitors seeking refuge from the COVID pandemic caused significant strains on already understaffed state parks and forests and facilities needing $1 billion worth of maintenance.

DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn readily agreed when they called the efforts of permanent and seasonal staff to provide the crush of visitors with safe recreational experiences– “heroic.”

John Hallas, Director of the Bureau of State Parks, said park attendance increased a million visitors a month in 2020, compared to 2019, resulting in a total of 46.7 million visitors– a 26.6 percent increase.

Ellen Shultzabarger, State Forester and Director of the Bureau of Forestry, said while state forests provide a “dispersed low density” outdoor recreation experience that isn’t easily quantified, they experienced an almost 30 percent increase in camping and parking lots and trail access points were continuously filled.

Read a summary and view the presentations at the PA Environment Digest Blog, 1/28/2021.

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DCNR bureau chiefs outline COVID-19 impacts