When it comes to its state parks, Pennsylvania is looking toward the future.
The Wolf Administration recently released the findings of a two-year preliminary report being used to improve the 121 state parks across the Commonwealth. Officials are now looking for the public's opinion on the results.
"Get their opinions, their suggestions, comments, so it'll guide the future, the next 20 to 25 years," said Josh Swartley, assistant regional manager of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' State Parks Region 4 office.
On Wednesday night, a public meeting was held at Beltzville State Park to discuss the report. Similar meetings are being held at other state parks across Pennsylvania.
"The basic purpose is to see where the general public wants the state parks to go. This is a bureau-wide initiative," said Alma Holmes, park manager of Beltzville State Park.
"It's been the last two or three years we've been doing surveys. Public surveys, telephone surveys, online surveys," said Swartley.
Proposed recommendations include increasing funding, improving outdoor recreation, modernizing park facilities, and strengthening protection of natural resources.
"Sometimes the wear and tear on the resources is just too much for the resources and sometimes you have to rotate resources," said Holmes.
Right now, Beltzville is undergoing its own capacity study. The park deals with high-volume crowds every year, especially on holiday weekends.
While the state report does not specifically address Beltzville's situation, DCNR officials say all parks are seeing an increase in use.
"They're being used heavily. Our attendance keeps increasing year after year, usually on a regular basis," said Swartley.
Now it's those same users the Wolf Administration wants to hear from to ensure a bright future for Pennsylvania's parks.
"Every so often, we have to reach out to the public and see what they want because if we don't provide them with what they're looking for, they're not going to keep coming back," said Holmes.
The state hopes to have a final report released to the public by summer of 2020. They will begin trying to figure out how to implement changes and suggestions next fall.
If you would like to read the report or submit feedback on it, you can do so on the DCNR website.