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Improve Communities Through Access to Conservation and Recreational Resources
Community Grant Funding: In 2015, the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation (BRC) worked in partnerships with citizens, government officials, and non-profit organizations to implement 164 community recreation and conservation projects throughout Pennsylvania. This included 80 community recreation and park projects, 20 park and open space acquisition projects (totaling 6,349 conserved acres), 30 statewide and regional projects, 16 planning projects, and 18 trail projects.

At the same time, BRC processed 430 grant applications requesting over $92 million in grant funding. This included 63 applications for open space and park acquisitions, 240 applications for Community Recreation and Park projects, 13 applications for Rivers Projects, 67 applications for trail planning, acquisition and development, and 39 State and Regional partnership applications. The Department expects to award grants to the selected applicants in early 2016.

Some highlighted projects in 2015:

Manayunk Bridge Multi-use Trail Connector, Lower Merion Township, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties: Abandoned by SEPTA since 1986, the Manayunk Bridge Trail is a prime example of a transformed public space that improves the quality of life and encourages recreational reuse for the citizens of Pennsylvania. DCNR invested $500,000 of Keystone Community Recreation and Parks Funds into the project;

Trolley Trail Phase I Development, Countryside Conservancy, Lackawanna County: This multi-municipality project required 14 easements and 3 land acquisitions in order to construct the first three miles of a proposed 14-mile trail along the former Northern Electric Street Railway. A DCNR grant of $633,000 made this trail development project one of the largest awarded trail grants by the BRC;

Jersey Shore Boat Launch and Riverfront Development, Jersey Shore Borough, Lycoming County: On the Susquehanna River in Lycoming County, this project plays a key role in the Susquehanna River Greenway, West Branch Water Trail, by connecting citizens with the rich resource of the river. DCNR invested $205,700 of Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Funds into the project with a community match of $205,700 for an estimated total project cost in the amount of $411,400;

Nay Aug Avenue Natural Play Area, Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, Lackawanna County: Opened in July, this unique park, built with all natural and recycled materials, provides families with an unconventional playground that encourages imaginative play. The first of its kind in Pennsylvania, the project engaged local businesses and civic organizations, and experienced over 190 volunteers providing 885 service hours while building this natural play area.

Community Grant Workshops: The Bureau of Recreation and Conservation hosted six free grant workshops across Pennsylvania in November. These workshops were designed to assist applicants develop project ideas, prepare grant applications and provide technical assistance to participants throughout the state. The presentations offered potential 2016 grant applicants the opportunity to learn about BRC’s new selection criteria, and provided in-depth, small group breakout sessions which afforded attendees the chance to network with BRC staff and ask specific, personalized questions related to their respective projects.

Greenways and Trails Summit: In September, the BRC held its Greenways and Trails Summit in Warren. This year’s event had a record number of attendees with a total of 238 professionals on hand discussing visions, direction, and priorities for the statewide greenways and trails movement. With mobile workshops, 30 breakout sessions, 12 exhibitors and 19 sponsors the Greenways and Trails Summit was a successful opportunity for members of the greenways and trails community to interact with and learn from one another and leaders on a state and national level.

River of the Year: The Conewango Creek was selected as 2015 River of the Year. This northwestern Pa. waterway was the top vote-getter among the five rivers chosen to compete for the general public online voting process. After receiving 42 percent of the popular vote, the Conewango Creek received a $10,000 Leadership grant to promote, protect and preserve this unique watershed. The Conewango Creek is a designated Pa. Water Trail with six launch areas along 13 miles of river near Warren. Rich in biodiversity and plentiful in aesthetic value, the waterway is a local destination for outdoor recreation year round.

Pennsylvania Outdoor Recreation Plan: In June, DCNR released Pennsylvania’s new five-year Outdoor Recreation Plan (2014-2019) that guides policies, priorities and investments related to outdoor recreation. To connect citizens to healthy outdoor recreation, the plan has five major priorities including health and wellness, local parks and recreation, tourism and economic development, resource management and stewardship, and funding and financial stability and includes 20 recommendations and 83 action steps. The public had many opportunities to contribute to the plan. Three stakeholder public meetings were held, and three direct mail and online surveys were also conducted. More than 10,000 people provided input into the plan’s strategy development. The completed plan keeps Pennsylvania eligible for federal Land and Water Conservation funding. The full plan and supporting documents, along with four training webinars, are now available on

Conservation Landscapes: One of the key ways DCNR is tying together the economy and the environment is its strategic effort to work in large, significant landscapes to help communities protect the sense of place and the natural assets that make them unique. Driven by a partnership approach to accomplishing conservation, recreation and revitalization goals at the regional level, seven Conservation Landscapes engage community leaders, other state agencies, local governments, businesses, philanthropies and nonprofits around common goals. Among the 2015 highlights:

South Mountain: The South Mountain Partnership, with support from twelve regional partners, applied and were selected to participate in the Chesapeake Bay Trust Regional Capacity Building Initiative. The initiative is to: a.) increase the collective and individual grassroots capacity to accomplish regional goals at the intersection of community and environment and, b.) establish durable, powerful, and coordinated efforts to advance programs and policies to improve regions and communities beyond the term of the initiative. For three years, the South Mountain Partnership will be eligible to receive facilitation services, technical assistance, training, and grants to strengthen and diversify the partnerships regional collaborations, working to advance a shared regional and community driven agenda that improves the quality of life in the region and protects and restores our natural resources. For more information, visit here.

Lehigh Valley Greenways: The Lehigh Valley Greenways Partnership held two inaugural regional events in 2015 that were well received. In September, the first Greenways Festival was held at Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center. Partners displayed educational tables and exhibits around the center area and the day included a full slate of educational and recreational activities. In October, the Partnership sponsored its first Legislative Breakfast with more than 60 people in attendance including state representatives and senators, and staff from offices of Senator Casey and Congressman Cartwright. A panel of five conservation landscape partners shared specific examples of how the partnership work has helped their organization and the region and all legislative offices shared their actions related to conservation/outdoor recreation as well as encouragement on what specific priorities their offices would like to work with the partnership on to help achieve.

Laurel Highlands: The Laurel Highlands Falls Area Visitors Center in Ohio Pyle State Park was dedicated in June to orient people on the many exciting things to do outdoors in Ohiopyle and across the Laurel Highlands. The $7 million facility made of glass, wood and stone is LEED-certified with views of the Youghiogheny's 20-foot waterfall, interactive exhibits that interpret not just the surrounding state park but also the entire Laurel Highlands, new access for whitewater boaters on the Lower Yough, and new park offices. The 11,500-square-foot structure was designed by SMP Architects of Philadelphia with exhibits by the 106 Group of Minnesota. A $4 million federal Scenic Byways grant was administered by the National Road State Heritage Area.

Pennsylvania Wilds: The PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship has continued to engage with young people in the region through its Inspiring Entrepreneurship youth outreach program. As part of this, the Center also worked with the Northcentral PA PREP Network and DCED to help seed 13 micro-businesses at high schools in the PA Wilds region. The Center also made great strides in expanding the use of the PA Wilds brand and logo among businesses in the region including Straub Brewery. Straub, one of several craft breweries in the region and an active participant in the PA Wilds Artisan Trail (trail now includes craft beverages and foods), is now beginning to align their “Honestly Fresh, Fiercely Independent” brand with the Wilds brand in some very inventive ways. This will go a long way to strengthen existing branding efforts aimed at building awareness for the PA Wilds as a regional destination for outdoor recreation and adventure travel.

Susquehanna Riverlands: Partners celebrated the completion of the development of an additional six miles of trails of the North West Lancaster County River Trail (NWCLRT), including a walkway bridge structure spanning a Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge; re-decking of the Martic Forge trestle bridge; and road separated section of trail built as part of the Route 441 state road realignment project. (The 14 mile trail located between the village of Falmouth and Columbia Borough, currently has approximately 10 miles completed.) A mini-grant awarded to the Lancaster Arts Factory for an “artist in residence program” led to a local artist working with over 500 students to the design, development and installation of a mosaic tile mural on the retaining wall of a NWCLRT trailhead East Donegal Township’s Riverfront Park. The mosaic tile features the cultural, historical and natural aspects of the Lower Susquehanna Region. The Susquehanna Heritage Region’s historic Zimmerman Center for Heritage in Wrightsville, York County, received an official National Park Service plaque designating it an “ Anchor Site” for the Captain John Smith Historic Chesapeake Trail. It is the first designated anchor site of the trail in Pennyslvania and provides visitors to the region a location for disbursing a variety of trail resources and information regarding recreational and historical opportunities along the river.

Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape partnership had a productive year of events, land conservation and trail expansion. The French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust conserved a 560-acre verdant valley in Warwick Township, Chester County. Natural Lands Trust protected a 54-acre addition to French Creek State Park;  conserved a 114-acre farm in Chester County; and secured a 234 acre hillside for the Bureau of Forestry. The landscapes signature trail project, the Big Woods Trail, was advanced with two miles of trail completed connecting French Creek State Park to Hopewell Village National Historic Park. Another two mile section is currently under construction and will connect French Creek State Park to the Thun section of the Schuylkill River Trail. Berks Nature and the Greater Reading Trails Partnership announced that the Greater Reading Trails system has been designated a Bronze Level Ride Center rating from the International Mountain Biking Association, one of only 37 designations world-wide.

Trails: The Heritage Rail Trail in York County was selected as 2015 Trail of the Year, a designation coordinated by DCNR’s Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee to elevate public awareness of the thousands of miles of trails available for public enjoyment in Pennsylvania. The 21.5-mile Heritage Rail Trail runs from the City of York to the Maryland border and includes seven railroad structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as an operating tourism train along 10-miles of track. The trail has been the catalyst for the formation of local history organizations and community festivals. The Heritage Rail Trail is important to the health and fitness of residents in nearby communities, its connection to the history of the surrounding area, and is a rare example in Pennsylvania of a rail trail with nearby active rails.

USA Today awarded the Schuylkill River Trail the Best Urban Trail in the Nation. Twenty trails from around the country were nominated by a panel of travel and outdoor recreation experts, and the top ten were then determined by popular vote. The Schuylkill River Trail extends from Center City, Philadelphia, out to the suburbs, and provides citizens and visitors alike with a scenic and safe opportunity to escape the urban environment to relax and enjoy exercise. When complete, the trail is expected to be almost 130 miles long, connecting five counties, and will be a key segment of the 750-mile Circuit bicycle/pedestrian trail which provides approximately 20,000 runners, walkers and bikers a multi-use trail and a serene public space refuge.

ATV Riding Improvements: To encourage better use of existing all-terrain vehicle trails and promote legal, safe ATV operation, the state Bureau of Forestry continued working in 2015 toward developing key trail connections to expand riding opportunities for ATV riders in Pennsylvania. A one-mile connector trail in Susquehannock State Forest and a 1.5-mile addition to Sideling Hill trails in Buchanan State Forest were completed. A 20-mile enhancement/expansion to Jack’s Mountain trails in Bald Eagle State Forest is almost complete, and should open in spring 2016. A 6.6-mile addition to Bloody Skillet trails, Sproul State Forest, is complete; and a 13-mile upgrade/remediation of Dixon Miller trails, Delaware State Forest, is 100 percent complete. That trail reopened to public use Dec. 14, 2014.

Through Dec. 2, Pennsylvania had 274,499 registered (169,904 active/paid registrations and 104,595 limited/non-paid registrations) owners of all-terrain vehicles and 37,471 registered (34,487 active/paid registrations and 2,984 limited/non-paid registrations) snowmobile owners.

Get Outdoors PA: Get Outdoors Pennsylvania-guided programs use outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, canoeing and biking to engage new audiences and to create meaningful and lasting connections between the commonwealth’s citizens and its natural resources. More than 2,350 Get Outdoors PA programs were offered to more than 57,000 visitors throughout the state park system in 2015. Programs such as the GO Teach workshop series for physical education teachers reached new audiences across the state, while national events, such as the First Day Hike program continue to grow in popularity, drawing 1,228 visitors to our state parks on New Year’s Day. In 2015, the Get Outdoors PA program continued its expansion, with the addition of the PA Parks and Forests Foundation as a flagship partner and 103 local community partners who will be offering Get Outdoors PA events.

January 6, 2016

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