There's a new head honcho at Beltzville State Park. It's manager Ben Monk's third week on the job. Previously he served as assistant park manager at Ohiopyle State Park in western Pennsylvania, the largest state park in the commonwealth.
"Coming from that large volume park, it felt like a natural progression to come here to this park and take on the challenge," said Monk.
It's well-known summers at Beltzville come with a lot of challenges, especially in the age of COVID-19. Record crowds, which brought along drugs, alcohol, and lots of trash, plagued the park more than ever in 2020. Monk dealt with similar problems at Ohiopyle.
"We had graffiti issues, trash issues for sure. Pittsburgh shut its city pools down so a lot of people came down to the park and used the park as their city pool," said Monk.
He says he's ready to tackle these problems and preparations are already underway for summer 2021.
"We want to get out ahead of it and we want to work with our partners. Our local municipalities and townships, work with state police, Fish and Boat," said Monk.
The new manager shares DCNR is working to hire more rangers to cover the grounds, and there are plans to bring in staff from other parks when needed.
"We're going to bring in more help to cover the busy weekends and just stay on top of things," said Monk.
Monk understands while many of Beltzville's visitors come from out-of-state, local residents care about the park and want to see things change.
"I plan on being here for a while. [My family and I] plan on making this our home and we're going to do our best to make this a great place for everybody to visit, whether you're local or coming in from out of town, we want to make it welcoming for everybody," said Monk.
And he knows there's lot of work to do, because even when the pandemic ends, he believes all state parks will continue to see large crowds.
"Our numbers are definitely up and I think that it's something that is going to continue. People are rediscovering state parks," said Monk.