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Pennsylvania seeks public input on future outdoor recreation plan

HARRISBURG, PA – The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is calling on Pennsylvanians to express their outdoor preferences through an online survey, a move aimed at shaping the state’s outdoor recreation plan for the next five years to give. Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn emphasized the importance of public feedback in informing the 2025-2029 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, which will guide future investments, policies and facilities in outdoor recreation.

With the changing nature of outdoor interests, DCNR seeks to understand current trends and preferences, whether for hiking, biking or other outdoor activities. This initiative underscores the dynamic relationship between Pennsylvanians and their natural environment, recognizing that changes in societal trends can significantly impact recreational needs and priorities.

The study, conducted with the support of experts from across the state, complements scientific research conducted by Penn State earlier this year and an ongoing survey of recreation providers. It represents a direct channel for residents to express their outdoor recreation needs and concerns, available in both English and Spanish to ensure broad accessibility and confidentiality for all participants.

The deadline for entries is fast approaching and responses are due by May 22nd. The results of the insights from this public survey, in addition to those from other studies conducted, will play an important role in drawing up the first version of the upcoming recreation plan. This draft is scheduled for early fall and will be open for review and comment via the DCNR website and during public feedback sessions to be announced.

These feedback sessions will provide an essential platform for further public engagement, allowing citizens, service providers and stakeholders to contribute to refining the plan before it is submitted to the National Park Service in early 2025. Deputy Secretary Claire Jantz emphasized the goal of drawing insights from new voices and communities, especially those previously underrepresented in outdoor recreation planning.

Revising the state’s outdoor recreation plan every five years is not only a strategy to stay in tune with the public’s changing recreation preferences, but also ensures Pennsylvania’s eligibility for federal land and water conservation funding. The current plan identifies walking for pleasure or fitness as the top outdoor activity in the state, along with other favorite pastimes such as sightseeing and nature viewing.

Feedback from past surveys shows there is a public desire for more bike paths, dog parks, rental cabins and wildlife viewing areas. Such facilities not only enhance the livability of the community, but also support mental health, social well-being and economic opportunities through tourism. Pennsylvania’s commitment to regularly updating its outdoor recreation plan reflects an understanding of the critical role outdoor spaces play in the well-being of its residents and the health of its communities.

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