The Lead

The need for fees? DCNR says ‘no’ to visitor fees for infrastructure repair costs

By: - October 12, 2021 4:43 pm

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A senior Wolf administration official took her fight for more state funding for badly needed infrastructure repairs at Pennsylvania’s state parks to Bucks County on Tuesday, where she warned that failure to fund vital repairs could hurt the state’s $29 billion outdoor recreation industry. 

“I cannot stress how important it is that we do not miss this opportunity to address our infrastructure needs so that the outdoors continue to be a destination for millions of Pennsylvanians and out-of-state visitors,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said during a Tuesday stop at Delaware Canal State Park, which needs $75 million in repairs.

The historic Bucks County Park has “several critical infrastructure concerns,” which include bridge, aqueduct, lock, wastegate and river wall repairs, the agency said in a statement.

Many of the normal wear-and-tear repairs have also been exacerbated by the effects of climate change and flooding from extreme weather,” Dunn said Tuesday. “It serves as a reminder that our trails, dams, campgrounds, bridges, and educational centers require a financial investment.”

The visit comes a week after Dunn made a stop at Shikellamy State Park in Northumberland and Union counties, which needs $56 million in repairs. All told, Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks need a total of $1.4 billion in infrastructure repairs and upgrades, but DCNR doesn’t have the money to pay for them. 

Pa. parks need $1.4B for infrastructure repairs, improvements, DCNR says

The agency received more than $140 million in this year’s state budget.

In 2020, DCNR opposed a bill by state Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, that would have implemented a fee for state park visitors, which, Heffley said could have provided some funding for improvements and repairs. 

GOP lawmaker from Carbon County says he wants to let Pa. state parks charge visitors a fee

Heffley told the Capital-Star that while he has the draft of the bill ready, he has not yet reintroduced the bill. 

Heffley, who serves on the House Tourism & Recreational Development Committee, said his proposal would implement a “nominal fee” that would be determined at DCNR’s discretion and could include higher fees for out-of-state visitors to Pennsylvania state parks. 

“We should look at our parks and those that are using them,” Heffley said, adding that neighboring states New Jersey and Maryland have visitor fees at state parks. 

Discussing DCNR’s growing list of infrastructure projects and their high price tags, Heffley acknowledged that many state agencies are in the same position. 

“Everybody needs more money,” Heffley said. 

DCNR spokesperson Wesley Robinson told the Capital-Star on Tuesday that the agency has “no plans” to implement any fees.

Robinson added that the department’s belief that Pennsylvania parks should be free to all visitors “has and will continue to be a top priority.”

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.