CAMP HILL, PA — Two-thirds (66 percent) of Pennsylvanians agree that state lawmakers should place a high priority on funding for state parks and forests, according to a recent state poll of likely voters. The agreement was broad-based and bipartisan, including majorities of voters regardless of their party affiliation, age, gender, geography, or ethnicity.
“Pennsylvanians – no matter who they are, where they live, or what political views they hold – support investing in our state parks and forests and protecting our precious natural resources,” said Brad Mallory, Board Chair of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF), which commissioned the scientific statewide poll.
In addition, the poll shows that 67 percent of Pennsylvania likely voters support using as much as $125 million of the state’s share of the federal American Rescue Plan’s funding on the maintenance and repair of state parks and forests. Support for using American Rescue Plan funding also was broad-based and bipartisan, including support from 62 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Independents, and 73 percent of Republicans.
Through every phase of the pandemic, state parks and forests provided space for improving the physical, mental, and emotional health of Pennsylvanians. In 2020, close to 47 million visitors were recorded at state parks alone, an increase of 26 percent over the previous year. And heavy use is continuing.
“Throughout the pandemic, it was universally recognized that outside was the place to be for our own health and wellness. State parks and forests provide a way to experience the great outdoors close to home thus the use of these public spaces exploded” said Marci Mowery, President of PPFF. “Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation believes an important role that our parks and forests play is in protecting and improving human health.”
Parks and forests also have proven their economic value in Pennsylvania. According to an Outdoor Recreation Industry study, Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation in terms of consumer spending on outdoor recreation, generating $29.1 billion in consumer spending annually, supporting 251,00 jobs, and generating $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue.
The likely voters were told that PPFF estimates that state parks and forests face a $1.4 billion backlog of infrastructure renovations and deferred maintenance, including much-needed repairs to roads, bridges, trails, dams, water and sewer systems, cabins, restrooms, and other visitor facilities. Voters overwhelmingly support using the American Rescue Plans funds, even if it means that funding cannot be spent on other programs.
When told that state forests serve as a natural filter to remove harmful pollutants from Pennsylvania streams, rivers, and lakes, 79 percent of likely voters agreed that the state should invest in state forests to protect clean water and reduce flooding.
“Now is the time to invest in our state parks and forests,” said Mallory. “We call on the members of the General Assembly to utilize a portion of the federal American Rescue Plan funds provided to Pennsylvania to help fill this backlog so that these lands may be safe and enjoyable for all.”
The statewide poll, conducted Feb. 21-28, 2022, by Susquehanna Polling and Research, interviewed 701 Pennsylvania likely voters and has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent.
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