Governor Corbett’s proposed 2012-13 budget eliminates all conservation, park, and recreation funding from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund. The budget goes on to propose that the cut be made permanent. This proposed budget would divert the funds to general government operations-$30M in 2012 alone-making this proposal the largest cut to conservation in state history. (Keystone funding for libraries and historic preservation would remain intact.) I urge you to vigorously oppose this threat to our Commonwealth’s recreation and conservation efforts.
The Keystone Fund is funded by the dedication of 15% of the Realty Transfer Tax, and the amount available each year is dependent on the number of real estate transactions and values each year. The Fund was established in 1993 with overwhelming bi-partisan support in a voter referendum and legislative act (48-0 in the PA Senate and 196-3 in the House).
No state funding program has had a more lasting impact on local communities, since these projects help communities help themselves. Each dollar of Keystone Fund investment in communities leverages an average $2.28 in private and local investments. These investments in turn generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, including recreational purchases, wages, and increased property values. Moreover, a fair share of funding is given to small and rural communities who have limited capacities to plan and complete these beneficial projects. In this way they are not forced to compete with larger communities and cities on park, trail, and conservation projects.
Lack of exercise is one of the risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. In Pennsylvania 62% of adults are overweight and 25% are obese. Childhood obesity is increasing as well. For the first time in modern history, researchers are indicating that younger generations will have shorter and less healthy lives than their parents. In the last 30 years, the obesity rate for 6-11 year olds and 12-19 year olds has quadrupled. It has tripled for children aged 2-5. But obesity is not a problem that children outgrow; overweight adolescents have a 70 % chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. The number one goal of Pennsylvania’s Child Wellness Plan is to increase physical activity. Research has shown that trails, parks and other outdoor recreation opportunities close to home encourage active lifestyles and reduce the cost of health care.
As early as 2012, the Keystone Fund as supported approximately:
2,600 community park projects, including ball-fields, playgrounds, and pools
State park and forest improvements including construction and rehabilitation of restrooms, parking lots, roads, bridges, and visitors’ centers
The Keystone Fund has been critical in helping to build parks, trails and conserve open space along the Susquehanna Greenway – the state’s largest greenway. Keystone-funded projects include:
Susquehanna Riverwalk, Lycoming County: 4-mile paved multi-use trail connects visitors and residents to the waterfront and provides recreational opportunities to the largest urban population along the West Branch of the river
Camp Lackawanna Easement, Wyoming County: Over 280 acres have been preserved for public enjoyment and also provide access to the Susquehanna River Water Trail
Capital Area Greenbelt, Dauphin County: This “jewel necklace” rings the capital city and provides visitors an opportunity to hike, bike, skate, jog, and appreciate nature
River Walk Improvements, Clinton County: Provided a river overlook area, steps to the river walkway, and electricity to the floating stage used for community concerts
North Branch Canal Trail – a regional trail system to connect Danville with Bloomsburg
Shickshinny Riverfront Park – Devastated by the 2011 flood, the town wants to develop a master plan for the park that includes public restrooms, camping, picnic and festival space
Please tell other legislative leaders and your colleagues that the protection of the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund must be a top budget priority and remember that it is Pennsylvania’s only funding source that directs money specifically to community park, recreation, and land conservation grants. We simply can’t afford to lose it.