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Sec. Allan helps celebrate 20th anniversary of Keystone Fund
DCNR Secretary Richard Allan joined partners from across Pennsylvania and the original 1993 legislative champions this week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund at a special event in the Capitol Rotunda.

"Since 1993, grant investments through the Keystone program have worked to bolster our vision for the strength of our economy, the vibrancy of our communities, the health of our families and our quality of life in Pennsylvania," Allan said. "The legacy of the Keystone program is that it allows us to partner with communities so that they can expand and improve the wonderful assets that make the places we call home vital and attractive."

The anniversary celebration included the release of a report by The Trust for Public Land finding that every $1 invested by the Keystone Fund in land and water conservation returns $7 in economic value of natural goods and services.

"Some of the key economic benefits of land conservation through programs like Keystone come in the form of natural goods and services," said Jessica Sargent, director of conservation economics for The Trust for Public Land. "Protected parks and open space remove air pollutants, protect and enhance water quality and supplies, provide fish and game habitat, produce food, manage stormwater, and provide flood control and other necessary functions."

The new report found that not only do investments in programs such as Keystone help create jobs and generate revenue, they also increase the value of nearby properties; boost spending at local businesses; make communities more attractive places to live; influence business location and relocation decisions; reduce medical costs by encouraging exercise and other healthy outdoor activities; provide low or no-cost recreation to families; stabilize local taxes in the communities in which they are located; and help revitalize depressed areas.

In recognition of the contributions of the Keystone Fund, the celebration also included the presentation of the Keystone 20th Anniversary Awards.

"For more than two decades, the Keystone Fund has been helping communities protect open space, develop community parks and recreation areas, support libraries, preserve historic sites, and protect and improve our state game, forest, and park lands," said presenter Robert Griffith, former executive director of the Pennsylvania Recreation & Park Society and one of the original Keystone champions. "These projects demonstrate that investments in the Keystone Fund help make real and lasting improvements in our communities."

(From left to right): Bob Griffith, former executive director of the Pa. Recreation & Park Society; Assistant Director of the Bureau of State Parks John Hallas; DCNR Secretary Rick Allan; and Larry Williamson, former deputy secretary for conservation and technical services at DCNR.

Awardees received a special wooden plaque made entirely from hardwoods grown and harvested in the Pennsylvania Wilds to be displayed at the site of their project. The award winners are:

  • Trails – The D & L Trail in the Wyoming, Delaware counties and the Lehigh Valley. Presented to the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. The D & L Trail provides convenient recreation for 1.65 million residents in five counties and connects 60 communities from Wilkes Barre to Philadelphia. The trail, which interprets one of the nation's early transportation corridors, contributes nearly $20 million to the regional economy annually. The Keystone Fund has invested $1.3 million in the creation of the trail.
  • Parks and Recreation – Columbia River Park, Columbia Borough, Lancaster County. Presented to the Borough of Columbia, Lancaster County. Columbia River Park received $1.03 million in Keystone funds for park revitalization and expansion. The project consists of an enlarged boat ramp, a canoe and kayak ramp and increased parking. The project also includes a new park and trail services building complete with restrooms and kiosk area, porous paving and sidewalks, rain gardens, a boat dock, pavilion and a handicapped accessible dock, benches and picnic benches.
  • Historic Preservation – Pearl S. Buck House, Perkasie, Bucks County. Presented to Pearl S. Buck International. Home to the Nobel Prize winning author and philanthropist, the Pearl S. Buck House in Perkasie served as her home and as the headquarters for her foundation Pearl S. Buck International. About $115,000 of Keystone funds helped support the $2.8 million preservation of the historic Pearl S. Buck House. The funds were instrumental in leveraging other private and public funding to restore the house, which was at risk of closing its doors because of safety issues, structural problems, significant water damage and general disrepair.
  • Library – Scottdale Public Library, Scottdale, Westmoreland County. Presented to Scottdale Public Library. The Scottdale Public Library received $500,000 in Keystone funds to help build a new 10,000 square foot, $1.3 million library in the heart of the downtown on the site of the former YMCA. Construction of the new and expanded building allowed the library to end an expensive lease for outdated space and to begin serving two nearby townships that were unserved previously.
  • Conservation – White Rocks Acquisition, Cumberland County. Presented to Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Keystone Fund made possible the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's purchase of 850 acres of unbroken forest along the South Mountain Ridge Line in Cumberland County. The acquisition preserves wildlife habitat and stunning views for the public. It also protects drinking water and greatly improves public access to the Appalachian Trail. The Keystone Fund investment of $1.6 million leveraged a like amount in private contributions and federal money.
  • State Parks – Ryerson Station State Park Swimming Pool, Greene County. Presented to DCNR. The Ryerson Station project was chosen to show one example of how Keystone Funds were used to improve accessibility in state parks and state forests. Improvements at Ryerson Station included the installation of a pool lift to provide access to the water. The Ryerson Station pool is the only free swimming pool in Greene County.
Griffith received special recognition for his leadership in the creation of the Keystone fund and his decades of service advocating for parks and recreation throughout Pennsylvania.

The Keystone 20th Anniversary celebration was hosted by the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition, Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, Pennsylvania Library Association, Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Society, and Preservation Pennsylvania.

Festivities concluded with a Keystone cake cutting by original Keystone champions responsible for the creation of the program in 1993—former Lt. Governor Mark Singel, former Sen. F. Joseph Loeper and former Rep. William Lloyd.

The Keystone Fund is a critical dedicated funding source for recreation and conservation projects, libraries, historic preservation initiatives and higher education. Established in 1993 with an overwhelmingly approved voter referendum, a 48-0 vote in the Pennsylvania Senate and a 196-3 vote in the House, the Keystone Fund automatically receives 15 percent of the state's realty transfer tax. Since its establishment, the fund has helped conserve more than 130,000 acres of green space, supported more than 1,900 park projects, and funded 570 historic preservation projects and more than 200 library projects.

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March 20, 2013

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