HB 2013 In Rules and Contrary to Common Sense

June 27, 2016

HB 2013 is in the Rules Committee. If it makes it out, it goes to the full House for consideration and debate. Do NOT let up the pressure! Call your Representative (especially if he or she is on Rules) and ask for a big NO on 2013! 

Marci’s comments to the Rules Committee, sent just a few minutes ago:

June 27, 2016

The Honorable _______
Rules Committee
PA House of Representatives

Dear Representative _____:

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF) I am writing to urge you to oppose HB 2013 and the subsequent amendment to create a pilot Public-Private Partnership (3P) program.

The Foundation, our members, and our 39 chapters oppose this bill for many reasons, some of which were presented to you last week in a lengthy letter. A quick summary includes:

  • The bill politicizes state park management, empowering special interests over the expertise of trained professionals;
  • The bill lacks transparency (it’s on the fast track);
  • The bill has the potential to cost Pennsylvania taxpayers money through subsidized development;
  • The bill goes AGAINST why state parks were developed—to conserve public lands for today and future generations—and promotes incompatible development such as offices, water parks, golf courses and hotels;
  • The types of development proposed by the bill—hotels, amusement parks, water parks, golf courses (there are already 818 in Pennsylvania!)—already exist in Pennsylvania, and if more were wanted and economically feasible, they would be developed by the private sector; and
  • The bill creates unfair competition to private enterprise that currently exist.

A quote in one paper claims the need for the bill is “to move the state parks of Pennsylvania into the 21st century.” Yet introducing expensive development into a state park is so last century … and because it’s last century, we can pull the records and news stories and see that it doesn’t work.

There is no need to create a pilot program to explore a 3P program, as the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources already has the power to enter into public-private partnerships, and does it when warranted. Consider the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle. It is run by a concessionaire but is subsidized by the state because the costs to develop and maintain the facility cannot be met by the market. Whitewater boating operations on the Lehigh and Youghiogheny rivers are provided by private business on state park facilities.  We can provide you with many more examples of current public-private partnerships.

If, as a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, you truly want to “move our state park system into the 21st century,” you could ensure adequate funding to tackle a long-term maintenance backlog caused by a failure to fully fund the Department’s budget. DCNR could then continue to upgrade our campgrounds with full service hookups and construct camping cottages and cabins. You could support DCNR in creating a new report to move us forward with a vision into the next several decades, much like was done in the 1980s with the State Parks 2000 report. A new report would represent the voice of the people, not special interests, and would include:

  • Findings from the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan study that outlines the changing face of Pennsylvania as older and more ethnically diverse;
  • Investment that reflects the desires of the people—investment in infrastructure, protecting wildlife and fish habitat, and acquiring more open space;
  • Changing recreational trends;
  • The fact that Pennsylvanians see access to recreation as part of their healthcare system; and that the high rate of obesity suffered by Pennsylvania residents, along with associated obesity related diseases, can be mitigated with ACTIVE recreation, not passive recreation; and
  • A consideration of ways to engage today’s young people in an appreciation of the outdoors—not as something to be exploited for private gain but as something to be protected and appreciated and passed on to the children who follow them.

Pennsylvania’s state parks belong to all of us. At PPFF, we and our 39 chapters eat, sleep, and breathe state parks and forests. We know that when we put in a playground, improve an amphitheater, host a concert, or work on trails, we are doing what our fellow citizens want. We are providing beautiful, natural, scenic, fun, and family-oriented recreation. We are continuing a legacy of protection and enhancement to spaces beloved by generations of Pennsylvanians and visitors alike. We are helping our professional partners at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources serve the best interests of every person who comes through the “gates” of a state park, building memories that indeed last a lifetime.

Yours in the Outdoors,

Marci Mowery, President

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