The sudden departure of John Norbeck, head of the state parks system, is not good for Pennsylvania parks or Pennsylvanians.
Mr. Norbeck, a holdover from the Rendell administration in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said he received a termination letter from the state's human resources office on Oct. 1 and that he agreed to resign on Oct. 19. One explanation for the dismissal came from a DCNR executive assistant who said the "administration has decided to go in a different direction."
That's what worries us.
After three decades in the Maryland parks system, Mr. Norbeck was asked to take charge of Pennsylvania's 117 parks in 2006. During his tenure, the system won the National Gold Medal for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management given by two groups and saw visitors rise by 10 percent and income by 65 percent.
The timing of his forced exit is curious because it comes when timber companies want to operate in the parks and conservation groups fear the administration wants to open them to natural gas drilling. A spokesperson for Gov. Tom Corbett told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, "Any assertion that there's a connection between John Norbeck's resignation and natural resource development on state land is totally without merit."
Although Pennsylvanians would like to believe that, the governor and his allies in the Legislature gave away the store on Marcellus Shale, by imposing less costly impact fees instead of a severance tax and allowing communities little say about local drilling.
We wish the administration would follow the lead of a different kind of Republican, President Theodore Roosevelt, who spurred the growth of the national park system and the modern conservation movement. But that's probably not the "different direction" they have in mind.