Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro recently visited Yough River Park in Connellsville along the 150-mile Great Allegheny PassageOpens In A New Window (GAP) to launch Pennsylvania’s Office of Outdoor Recreation and highlight the 2023-24 budget’s $112 million budget investment in state parks and forests, the largest in decades.
“Our state parks and outdoor recreation industry are key to Pennsylvania’s economy – hosting nearly 40 million visitors each year and boosting local businesses and the local economy in and around our parks,” Governor Josh Shapiro said. “When we invest real money to make our natural resources more accessible for Pennsylvanians, it helps communities and businesses grow and thrive. The budget that I recently signed delivers on the promise of a new Pennsylvania Office of Outdoor Recreation to strengthen our communities and grow the Commonwealth’s outdoor economy.”
The Pennsylvania Office of Outdoor Recreation will be focused on growing the state’s outdoor sector, which adds $14 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy and accounts for 152,000 jobs.
The Office will coordinate efforts with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the departments of Community and Economic Development and Health, PennDOT, and others, to create a cohesive strategy for the growth and expansion of the outdoor sector.
“Governor Shapiro is making a tremendous down payment on our ability to improve visitor experiences at our state parks and forests,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “It’s our public lands and trails that are the backbone that supports our outdoor recreation economy.”
Thanks to this budget investment, Pennsylvania becomes the largest state, by both economy and population, with an Office of Outdoor Recreation. Furthermore, the investments in state parks and forests in the budget signed by Governor Shapiro will help address a $1.4 billion backlog of needed infrastructure work, ensuring Pennsylvania remains a premier destination for outdoor recreation.
A 50-member advisory group (PDF) is helping create recommendations and actions needed for the new office to help support the outdoor economy. More than 500 people also participated during a statewide listening tour. A report with findings and action steps to guide the new office is being prepared.
The Commonwealth has invested tens of millions in the GAP over the past four decades, including more than $9 million in grant funding to help communities like Connellsville thrive.
DCNR manages 124 state parks, 2.2 million acres of state forest land, and works with local governments and municipalities to provide grants, planning, and other resources to communities across Pennsylvania. Visit DCNR’s website for more information about the agency and check out DCNR’s Calendar of Events for events on public lands.