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A majority of Pennsylvanians support increasing funding for the commonwealth’s 121 state parks and 2.2 million acres of state forest, according to a new poll.
The poll, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research between Feb. 21-27, 2022, surveyed 701 registered Pennsylvania voters across eight geographical areas statewide. The poll had a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.
Two-thirds of respondents, or 66 percent, told pollsters that “funding for outdoor recreation facilities, such as parks, trails, lakes, and overnight visitor facilities in parks and forests, should be considered a priority by the state government.”
Another 67 percent of respondents said that they support “the state of Pennsylvania increasing funding for state parks and state forests to address this backlog of repairs, projects, and maintenance by using up to $125 million of Pennsylvania’s $7.2 billion dollar share of money from the federal American Rescue Plan passed in 2020.”
“Pennsylvanians – no matter who they are, where they live, or what political views they hold – support investing in our state parks and forests and protecting our precious natural resources,” Brad Mallory, PPFF board chair, said in a statement.
Pennsylvanians have flocked to outdoor areas, parks and other public lands in ever-growing numbers in recent years, a trend highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, the poll found that 58 percent of respondents visited a local or state park, trail, or forest in the last twelve months, while 49 percent said they “bought outdoor recreation equipment, gear, or clothing” over the same period.
But with increased demand for outdoor recreation spaces and already-aging outdoor infrastructure, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has previously said that it needs $1.4 billion to address infrastructure repair needs and maintenance projects.
In an email to the Capital-Star, Wesley Robinson, a spokesperson for DCNR, said the agency is “grateful” for the PPFF survey and its findings.
“One thing this survey shows is the increased interest in the outdoors and natural spaces we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay,” Robinson said. “With that overwhelming support, we must move forward with a significant investment in that infrastructure to ensure future generations are able to enjoy the outdoors. Our parks and forests are special, majestic places and the infrastructure within those parks help support healthy behaviors and local communities, both of which are extremely meaningful during unprecedented times and as we move towards a new normal.”
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