McAdoo, PA — Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced today the acquisition of 5,600 hectares of land to be developed into a motorized recreation area in the Weiser State Forest in Schuylkill and Lucerne counties.
The acquisition was made possible by the nearly $700 million secured by Governor Tom Wolf in the 2022-23 budget for conservation, recreation and preservation across the Commonwealth. The funding also allows for the development of three new state parks in locations to be announced later this year.
“We at DCNR are very pleased to announce the acquisition of this property and look forward to developing it into the Catawissa Recreation Area, the first such area within our state forest system,” said Dunn. “As a national leader, DCNR is working to extend outdoor recreation to the Commonwealth, and this is an exciting new opportunity that we believe will help build the region’s reputation as a tourist destination.”
DCNR acquired the land with funds earmarked for Pennsylvania’s 2022-23 budget to provide various motorized recreation opportunities. The department is working with a consultant to develop and implement a motorized recovery plan that will incorporate community and stakeholder feedback.
The Catawissa Recreation Area includes land that included the site of an off-highway vehicle park, Paragon Adventure Park, which closed more than 10 years ago.
“This is an important step in expanding motorized recreation in Pennsylvania and a type of outdoor recreation in which we are seeing growing interest,” said DCNR Assistant Secretary John Norbeck. “Acquiring these lands also helps us achieve a number of conservation goals, including improving and protecting water quality, restoring degraded lands, preserving ecological resources, and providing educational opportunities for visitors and the surrounding community.”
The property has significant ecological value as a large contiguous forest area with sensitive plant habitats, high quality tributaries of Catawissa Creek and the presence of a stand of old growth hemlock. In addition to enhancing Pennsylvania’s motorized recreation, the new area will provide opportunities to manage natural resources, restore water quality and rehabilitate abandoned mineland in the area.
“Our state forest team is just as excited about the motorized recreation area as they are about the conservation work being done to restore the Catawissa Creek Watershed,” said State Forester Ellen Shultzabarger. “The legacy of this project will result in the long-term protection of plant and animal habitats, remediating the source of acidic mine drainage and creating new value in the region.”
DCNR rangers will patrol the site to manage existing activity and control unauthorized use until the motorized recreation area opens, which is expected in summer 2024.
Outdoor recreation is responsible for nearly $12 billion in economic impact and thousands of jobs across Pennsylvania, making the addition of the Catawissa Recreation Area a key element in the growing contribution of the Commonwealth’s outdoor recreation sector.
“Visiting a recreation area like Catawissa is not just a fun way to spend a day in nature with family and friends. It makes an important contribution to the prosperity of rural communities in Pennsylvania,” said Nathan Reigner, Director of Outdoor Recreation. “Each year, motorized outdoor recreation contributes more than $350 million to the Pennsylvania economy, a contribution that directly benefits small businesses such as vehicle dealerships and repair shops, restaurants, gas stations, and lodging near destinations like Catawissa, and at horseback riding stables comes. Hometown.”
State forest officials will manage the land until planning is complete and a contractor assumes control of operations. The project serves as a new model for using state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) liquid fuel funds and restoration funds to conserve land while expanding opportunities for ATVs, dirt bikes, ATVs and other forms of recreation.
Visit the DCNR website for more information on motorized recreation and state forests.
MEDIA CONTACT: Wesley Robinson, 717-877-6315
# # #