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Improved Customer Service: In February, the Bureau of State Parks unveiled a newly enhanced reservation system enabling campsite, cabin, and other reservations from a mobile application. The upgraded website enables faster, more secure reservations and easier searches. The new system was renegotiated to save DCNR more than $100,000 a year;

Since January, the bureau increased the number of campsites with full-service hook-up amenities by 53—to 189 sites completed. Parks with full service amenities: Bald Eagle, Black Moshannon, Cook Forest, French Creek, Gifford Pinchot, Hickory Run, Hills Creek, Kooser, Laurel Hill, Promised Land, Greenwood Furnace, Prince Gallitzin and Pymatuning;

DCNR expanded its pilot clean air beaches policy to eight new state parks in May, effectively making smoking restrictions on beaches a permanent feature at some of the most popular state park lakes in the commonwealth;

DCNR intends to continue to expand the pet camping and cabin program in 2016 with the addition of 89 pet camping sites and five cabins/cottages/yurts;

DCNR launched a new online registration system for its Calendar of Events. The new system is mobile and social media compatible;

The bureau is working to create a centralized data portal system designed to improve the accessibility, consistency, flow, and management of information and documents used throughout the bureau’s business applications. To date, the Park Address Database module, the foundation for all other module development, is complete and released for general use. The system will enable the bureau to better manage our costs and resources, create efficiencies, make real-time, data-based decisions and identity key business processes that may need to be restructured.

Redesigned Watershed Education Website and Watershed Education Database: Watershed Education (WE) is an inquiry-based, interdisciplinary curriculum geared for students in grades 6 -12. Developed by the Bureau of State Parks, WE helps educators utilize local natural resources as a valuable teaching tool. In 2015, DCNR revamped the WE website and interactive water quality database. The new website, designed to work on both desktop and mobile platforms, complements the WE curriculum and offers an updated library of educational resources. The new database provides a real-time, interactive, mobile-friendly interface that enables students and teachers to input and analyze water quality data from the field (weather conditions and physical, chemical, and biological parameters). The online database automatically calculates a stream’s volume of flow and a stream’s water quality diversity rating.

Public-Private Partnerships: The Bureau of State Parks partnered with 120 concessionaires in 2015 with estimated total revenues of $2.1 million. The agreements cover operations such as food and refreshment sales, watercraft rentals, bicycle rentals, golf course operations, swimming pool operations, downhill ski operations and whitewater rafting operations. These agreements allow the bureau to lease certain areas of state parks to private investors for the purpose of providing a product or service to the visiting public. DCNR continues to pursue new concession opportunities;

Ridley Creek Indoor Equestrian Center, a state of the art arena, developed through a private-public partnership, increased in visitor services at the park and strengthened a partnership between concessionaire and park. Under a long-term lease agreement, the Chidesters have operated Hidden Valley Farms of New Town Square at Ridley Creek State Park since 1999. This unique facility expands an equestrian legacy at historic Ridley Creek State Park that reaches back to the times of Sam Riddle, owner of famous race horses, Man O’ War and War Admiral;

DCNR created new partnership with Presque Isle Light Station to complete renovation and open the facility to the public phase one completed and public tours of the lighthouse were given the summer of 2015.

DCNR entered its second year of a 35-year agreement with the non-profit Keystone Elk Country Alliance (KECA) for operation of Elk Country Visitor Center in Elk County. The accord cemented a public/private partnership begun before the center first opened in 2010. The Elk Country Visitor Center is nestled on 245-acres owned by DCNR in Benezette. KECA, a Pennsylvania-based wildlife conservation organization, operates the center without state funding. KECA raises operational revenue through services such as gift shop sales, theater tickets, wagon and sleigh rides and other special events.

Environmental Design and Energy Efficiency: DCNR’s continued commitment to environmental design and energy efficiency was confirmed when three recently completed projects received certification from the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. The Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center received LEED Silver Certification, and Ohiopyle State Park Office and Laurel Highlands Falls Area Visitor Center and the Weiser State Forest Resource Management Center both were awarded LEED Gold Certification. In addition, the Ohiopyle facility received an award from the Central Pennsylvania chapter of the US Green Building Council for Improving the Acceptance of Green through the design, construction, and operation of an environmentally sustainable facility. These facilities focus on energy efficiency, natural resource conservation, improved indoor environmental quality, and interpretation of environmental sustainability by incorporating elements such as rainwater capture and reuse; green roof areas, porous pavement and onsite rain gardens to help control storm water; water efficient plumbing fixtures and biological waste water treatment system for onsite treatment of waste water; highly-efficient building envelope, geothermal and wood pellet biomass HVAC systems to help reduce utility costs and pollution and utilize renewable energy sources; and a wide range of materials manufactured regionally with high recycled content and low VOCs.

In addition, construction on the new Patrick J. Solano Environmental Education Center in Frances Slocum State Park and Buchanan State Forest’s new Resource Management Center began in 2015. Both are pursuing LEED certification. The newly certified buildings brings DCNR inventory of sustainably designed and constructed LEED certified buildings to 13; and the additional buildings under construction targets the goal of certifying 15 buildings by 2020.

Leadership: DCNR has a three-tiered approach to management and leadership development: Essentials of Supervision/Professional Development for Supervisors; Learning to LEAD; and Management University. Essentials of Supervision/Professional Development for Supervisors is held twice a year for new supervisors/managers and provides the basic “nuts and bolts” about what it means to be a supervisor/manager. Learning to LEAD is a nomination-only program held annually and is a forum for employees to develop their leadership potential and therefore raise the performance level of the agency through interactive training and problem-solving. Management University offers concurrent management/leadership courses to management employees and is designed to help participants develop and sharpen skills to perform their jobs more effectively. In 2015, 66 supervisors/managers participated in Essentials of Supervision/Professional Development for Supervisors; 24 current and emerging leaders participated in Learning to LEAD; and in 2014 76 supervisors/managers participated in Management University.

Workforce Diversity: DCNR staff attended 19 recruitment events in the first half of 2015 including a Cheyney University event; the Rep. W. Curtis Thomas Job Fair; Pittsburgh Bilingual Latino and Diversity Career Fair; Veterans’ Symposium; and a career fair for people with disabilities. The department also reached out to various high school students, including a Norris Square Neighborhood Project event in North Philadelphia; an ASSET STEM event at Bloomsburg University, and the hosting of about 50 students at the Rachel Carson State Office Building for a half-day of career exploration. The department joined 17 other agencies planning and hosting events celebrating Black History, Women’s History, and Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage months.

State park staff partnered with Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society, Penn State University, and Pittsburgh Adaptive Sports Network to present a Get Outdoors PA webinar on Expanding Your Reach: Offering Inclusive and Adaptive Outdoor Recreation Programs. Topics discussed were creating outdoor recreation programming for all audiences, evaluating audience needs, strategies for success, and connecting with partners to provide services. The webinar was a good first step in helping Get Outdoors PA partners offer inclusive and adaptive programming;

Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation facilitated a presentation by the Autism Society of Greater Harrisburg for DCNR park educators about autism;

Moraine State Park staff collaborated with Slippery Rock University's VIP Camp again in 2015. The camp is for children ages 5-18 with various visual impairments. Fifty children and 20 SRU volunteers spent the afternoon at Moraine, learning to canoe and kayak.

Employee Recognition: At the tenth annual Employee Recognition Program, awards were presented to 48 DCNR employees from across the state. Their accomplishments support key department initiatives that included: a joint effort involving bureaus of state parks and forestry to aid campers isolated by severe Fourth of July storms; joint plans to combat forest invasives; and human service that went far and beyond. Award recipients were nominated by their supervisors and selected by a screening committee of their coworkers. The above accomplishments—and many more—were honored May 6 by Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and other DCNR officials for criteria that included outstanding performance, innovative initiative and cost-saving effort during 2014.

January 6, 2016

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