HARRISBURG, PA — The Wolf Administration recently recognized the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of State Parks staff for ongoing efforts keep Pennsylvania’s 121 parks open and safe for visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for finding new ways to engage the public through virtual programming.
“State parks and forests offered important and safe opportunities for health activity and people enjoyed them in record numbers during the pandemic, “DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “During that period about 70 percent of DCNR staff, with appropriate precautions in place, reported to work in person to serve the public that was so in need of natural resources. They are our quiet heroes.”
Indoor facilities at state parks were closed for a time in spring 2020. In May 2020 when restrooms and park offices were opened to the large numbers of visitors seeking to enjoy the outdoors, most of the state park staff including custodial and maintenance workers returned on-site keeping facilities clean and the public safe.
Dunn said the work done by Custodian Jeff Dacus at Presque Isle State Park in Erie represents the extra steps DCNR staff took to increase cleaning procedures to meet COVID-19 mitigation protocols so visitors had comfort facilities available.
In state parks, DCNR has 118 environmental educators at 63 locations around the commonwealth. There also are two environmental education specialists that offer programming located in Forbes State Forest and Tiadaghton State Forest.
Normally, educators bring students to their local state park or forest for a field learning experience. During the pandemic, these experiences and lessons had to occur online.
Natural resource specialist Tim Morey, who works as an educator at parks in the Pennsylvania Wilds in the northcentral region, showed creativity and adaptability at Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County to bring the stars to new audiences.
The park had struggled with educating first-time visitors about the rural nature of the area, suggested arrival time (before dark), and what they should bring to best enjoy their visit. “Know Before You Go” virtual programs for the first-time visitor now respond to that need.
The park added additional online programs on a number of topics including meteor showers, the great conjunction of 2020, stargazing highlights of 2021, and even virtual telescope workshops with one-on-one follow-up sessions.
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