The state House has rejected a controversial proposal for a “pilot program” that would have allowed the development of a commercial golf course, amusement park, water slide park, hotel, and restaurant and bar on the grounds of a state park.
The House voted 123-77 on Tuesday evening to reject the amended version of H.B. 2013, which began as a more wide-ranging proposal by state Rep. Brian Ellis, R-Butler, that would have allowed development of those commercial facilities throughout the state’s 121-park system.
Environmental organizations denounced the proposal, calling it “incompatible” with the main mission of the parks.
Following the vote, Marci Mowery, president of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, and Davitt Woodwell, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, issued a joint statement thanking the House for its support of the park’s “nature-based recreational opportunities for everyone in the Commonwealth.”
The statement noted that the state’s park system is already an economic engine for Pennsylvania, especially in rural areas, with returns of $12 for every dollar invested.
Mr. Woodwell and Ms. Mowery said the defeat of the parks development proposal could be used to open discussions about the future and new directions for the state park system.
“With this vote out of the way, we feel there is an opportunity to sit down and discuss the real needs of our state park system, its strengths, challenges and opportunities , as well as the needs of the public,” they said in the joint statement. “Such a conversation would serve everyone well and provide a real basis for consideration of any development of any type in the parks in the future.”
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which had been quiet on the park development proposals last week, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, before the vote, saying it is “working with the sponsor to strike a balance between the legislature’s desire for additional private development opportunities in our state parks and forests, and DCNR’s mission as a steward of commonwealth lands.”
Don Hopey: email@example.com, 412-263-1983, or on Twitter @donhopey