A look at private development of Pennsylvania’s state parks – Part 2
I think that one expects a certain amount of “development” at a state park, after all, the parks are not totally-natural areas. We expect parking spaces and for the lawns to be mowed. Most of us appreciate picnic tables, pavilions, fire pits, canoe rentals, hiking trails, beach changing facilities, etc. Modern and primitive campsites are also important. Some Pennsylvania state parks, such as Parker Dam or Cook Forest, have primitive cabins for rent. Prince Gallitzin, Canoe Creek and over a dozen other state parks have modern cabins.
You don’t have to look too deeply into our neighboring states to find much more development than what we experience in Pennsylvania. Ohio, for example, has nine modern lodges and conference centers located in state parks. The lodges feature indoor and outdoor swimming pools, hot tubs or saunas, full-service restaurants and very nice guest rooms. Sorry, but this isn’t why I visit a state park.
I have camped and hiked at Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland, but now it is Rocky Gap Resort Casino. Do I want or need to go to a state park to drink, gamble and see night-club style entertainers? Couldn’t this be on private land?
West Virginia also has state park resorts – such as Canaan Valley and Pipestem. These might be very successful, but the Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia resorts are not my idea of what a state park is supposed to be.
Just south of the Pennsylvania boarder, West Virginia also has Cacapon Resort State Park, near Berkley Springs. I have visited this park a half-dozen times. Much of the park is natural – and that is why I was there. However, they do have a shooting range, tennis courts, a horseback-riding concession, a golf course, 25 rental cabins, and a 48-room lodge. It is difficult to say when “enough is enough,” but a visitor can picnic, hike trails, and walk or drive to a beautiful overlook. If one chooses, all of this can be done while seeing hardly any commercialization.
A different type of development
In 2013, Delaware opened the Go Ape Zip Line and Treetop Adventure Course at Lums Pond State Park near Wilmington. The half-million-dollar course gets people out in nature, is good exercise, has a small footprint and it allows people to see the park in a new and adventurous way. A zip line is not naturally suitable for every park, but this one seems like a good – and thus far – successful idea.
Continued modernization of our parks is a good thing, but not uncontrolled commercialization. State parks have been set aside as special places to experience and enjoy nature. I have nothing against golf courses, water parks, roller coasters, resort-style hotels, casinos and other such projects, but they should be privately constructed on private – not public – lands. Why should businesses be subsidized by taxpayers to build within state parks?
What bothered me the most about HB 2013? I think that it was handing control over to the Legislature, rather than the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
If any additional commercialization is to occur in Pennsylvania state parks, I would recommend that it be controlled by DCNR, coupled with an opportunity for public review and comment.
I am thankful that HB 2013 was voted down, however, if it had been left up to the ten representatives in my five-county area, the bill would have passed eight to two. Shame on the 77 Pennsylvania representatives who voted in favor of HB 2013. Why not let them know what you think? After all, they are our representatives.