State officers report that individuals proceed to search out shelter from COVID outdoor

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The COVID pandemic was not catastrophic and deadly without its silver lining.

People were looking for something to do as almost everything closed to protect themselves from the high levels of infections that spread in the spring of 2020. They needed a way to chat, sure to have a little fun.

An animal shelter was a great outdoor activity.

Millions of people flocked to relatively safe areas for outdoor activities, and plenty of fresh air and social distance provided a safe haven. During 2020, activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, and golfing boomed, and visitor numbers soared in Pennsylvania and Berks Counties.

What about 2021? The bubble hasn’t collapsed yet, according to people in the outdoor recreational community.

At a hearing on Wednesday, these officials said that despite the reopening of shops, restaurants, cinemas and other indoor events in Pennsylvania, outdoor participation at House Games & Fischer’s and Tourism & I remains a member of the Recreation Development Committee is high. It’s not a 2020 number, but it’s still way above average.

And that’s exactly what you see here, says the representative from Burks.

The increased number doesn’t seem unusual. State and local officials said they anticipate outdoor recreational activities will continue to grow in popularity for the foreseeable future.

This means that outdoor recreation sites will need additional support to meet demand.

“This pandemic has brought great recovery to the lives of the people of Pennsylvania,” Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, told state lawmakers. “They poured out into the open in record numbers across the state. It was wonderful.”

According to Dan, there were roughly 47 million unique visits to the state park system in 2020, an increase of roughly 27% over the previous year. And these numbers are still high today.

“Our state park visits remain in a higher range than we saw before the pandemic,” she said. “People have rediscovered nature and seem to be sticking to it.”

Same for Burks

That certainly seems to be the case in Berks County, and officials at French Creek State Park and Norde Forest Environmental Education Center say they were very busy during the pandemic.

Ben Hasty-Reading Eagle,

James Wassel (Reading Eagle)

James Wassel, manager of French Creek, said the estimated number of visitors to the park in 2020 increased by about 50 to 60% compared to the previous year. higher than 2019.

“I think during the pandemic a lot of people came to the park for some reason and understood what was right in the backyard,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “They rediscovered something they probably didn’t even know was 20 minutes from home and it was great to see.”

Wassel said he anticipates that number will stay high for some time. Lots of people buy camping gear, mountain bikes, kayaks, etc. and probably won’t just throw them away.

Evidence of his prediction can be found in the French Creek campsite reservation book.

“You can’t build a campsite in French Creek right now unless you want to come on Wednesday,” he said. “We are fully booked until autumn and will soon be fully booked for next year.”

Nolde Forest manager Brent Elb also sees an increase in valued visits. He reported that the number of visitors to the park in 2020 increased by almost 60% compared to the previous year. And this year’s visits are almost 30% higher than 2019.

“It is exciting to see how many families and individuals turn out and how outdoor activities are becoming a priority,” he said. “People have rediscovered nature. People have recognized the importance of spending time in nature, both for physical and mental health. “

Brent Elb (Ben Hasty-Reading Eagle)

Elve said he believes this trend will continue for the next several years as many pandemic visitors discover or rediscover the joy of outdoor recreation.

“We want people to relax, spend time in nature, observe nature and find clarity in their lives that can be difficult to find when working together. I was proud to serve as a place to visit, even inside your home, ”he said. “We are all very proud to be able to get in touch with people.”

It doesn’t hurt that a place like the Noldewald is wallet-friendly. Pennsylvania is one of eight states with free entry to all state parks.

Elb said he was excited about the increased use of the Noldewald, but it was not without its challenges. The number of staff and budget did not grow as well, but he said it was increasingly difficult to deal with more visitors as additional tasks like the new cleaning protocol were introduced. I did.

Due to the labor shortage due to the pandemic, the park, which typically employs four full-time workers and six seasonal workers, was only about 70% occupied last year.

And according to Elve, some first-time visitors had to teach the headmaster, for example, “leave no trace”.

“As a result, we’ve seen more trash, more dogs tied up, followed dogs, seen people carving wood, and more who violated the park’s rules,” he said. Rice field.

Respond to problems

Dan said at a hearing on Wednesday that growing interest has posed many challenges for the entire department over the past 18 months. This meant training new users on outdoor safety and focusing on moving workers to address overcrowding.

She said these are the kind of challenges the department can face. However, there are some challenges that state lawmakers must face.

“Our parks and forest systems have a huge pent-up demand for infrastructure, well in excess of $ 1 billion,” she said. “This need includes everything from sewage treatment plants to safe dams, picnic pavilions and visitor centers, which has significantly delayed infrastructure maintenance due to a lack of funds.”

Dan is exploring ways to improve partnerships with nonprofits and partnerships with the private sector to raise more funding to meet those needs, and local governments are funding US rescue programs. He said he was disseminating information that he could use for recreation.

“The pandemic has made it clear enough that citizens want more outdoor recreation,” she said. “And I think investing in recreation could help restore our economy and build our community.”

Maximize Opportunities

Brian Barhans, executive director of the Pennsylvania Games Commission, said he has been absent from the same perspective for the past 18 months and urged state lawmakers to seize the opportunity to improve outdoor recreation in Keystone.

“As we move forward, we assume that nature can continue to overcome the pandemic as Pennsylvania reestablishes ties to wildlife and is evidenced by license sales and strong residency permits. “He said,” We need to learn from the lessons of this pandemic. “

According to Burhans, the biggest lesson was that the more free time people have, the more likely they are to go outdoors. This means that hunting rules and regulations should be geared towards increasing participation during times when people have more free time, such as weekends.

“We need to maximize hunting opportunities on weekends when most people are given amnesty through promises of work, family and school,” he told lawmakers. “For this we need your help to finally and completely abolish the outdated blue law that prohibits hunting on most Sundays.”

Burhans said many of these opportunities have received overwhelming support from the hunting community since bipartisan law was passed in 2020 that allows three days of hunting on Sundays. He said many pointed out that the most important reason they bought their licenses was the ability to hunt on Sundays.

“The legislative changes and the lessons learned from the pandemic clearly show that the more hunting opportunities there are on weekends, the more licenses are sold so that the funds are available for the benefit of wildlife and the public. It means more, ”he said.

Thank you very much

Burhans used testimony to advocate legislative changes at hearings, but Timothy Schaeffer, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, spent time thanking lawmakers for the recently passed bill. ..

He introduced a law that would, for the first time, allow the Commission to set its own license fees, give the Commission better enforcement powers on dangerous dams, and synchronize drunk driving with penalties for drunk driving.

“The relationship between the three resource agencies is stronger than ever,” he said. “You need to know that every week on the phone we compared notes about how we were dealing with things when the COVID actually happened so that the message was consistent.”

Schaeffer also said that thanks to the committee’s team with the Trout classroom program, the agency has expanded its reach to the community, strengthened its online licensing system and invested in parts of its infrastructure.

Congressmen thanked people for their efforts to continue their outdoor activities during the pandemic and to let us know what it takes to keep things going.

These MPs expressed their wish to provide the best possible support for outdoor recreation, but the real level of financial support was not discussed.

Source link State officials report that people continue to find shelter from COVID outdoors

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