President Marci’s comments submitted to the State System of Higher Education in response to a stated plan to eliminate the Recreation Management curriculum in a newly consolidated PASSHE system.

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, the non-profit partner to our state parks and forests, I am writing to express concern over the proposed elimination of critical recreation and tourism majors as part of the integration process.

The Foundation’s mission is to steward our 121 state parks and 20 forests. We do this by working alongside of the trained professionals that manage these public lands. Our state colleges and universities provide a critical pool of candidates to fill these important positions.

Access to the outdoors proved to be a critical element of public health during the pandemic – not just physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. People reconnected to family and friends and took to the trails and waterways, the picnic areas and playgrounds to lower stress, reduce screen time, and improve their overall health.

While the visitation numbers during the pandemic were phenomenal, these same benefits are enjoyed by millions annually (our state parks average a 40 million visitors each year). In fact, when surveyed reducing stress is often the #1 reason people give for spending time in the outdoors. Furthermore, in a 2018 Lion Poll, 65% of those surveyed believed access to the outdoors was an essential part of the health care system.

And the need only grows as we expand access to areas closer to home and to underserved communities.

Our parks and forests—dare I say our communities and economies—depend on well trained park and recreation professionals. Access to the outdoors creates livable communities, which makes Pennsylvania an attractive place to live and work. Visitors to our state parks and forests support local economies. In fact, consumer spending on outdoor recreation supports over 219,000 jobs and brings in tax revenue of more than $1.9 billion, according to a survey done by the Outdoor Recreation Industry. We rank fifth in the nation in terms of consumer spending.

Yet as part of the integration plan, Tourism and Recreation programs at Lock Haven University and California University of Pennsylvania stand to be eliminated. The academic programs in Recreation Management at LHU and CA-PA have a long history of preparing excellent practitioners and valued employees in the field.

I write today expressing concern that this move will have adverse impacts on the very professionals we need to manage our community and state parks, as well as those professionals that keep us safe, rangers. Eliminating these plans eliminates a key route of entry into the profession. Eliminating them not only undercuts the foundation of the profession, but stands to impact the health of our residents and the recreation economy.

Without trained professionals how do we run our state parks?

Without trained professionals, who staffs our community parks?

Without access to recreation, how do the 56% of Pennsylvanians (pre-COVID #) gain access to health?

Eliminating this degree major puts us at risk for not having the trained professionals to meet the growing demands.

On behalf of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, I respectfully urge the reinstatement of the Recreation Management (BS) program to the total program array recommended in the new university.

Marci Mowery, President
Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation

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Public Comment – PASSHE Integration Plan