We've all seen those distinctive blue and gold state historical markers along the highway and various other locations. More than 2,000 of them have been erected throughout the state to commemorate people, places and events that have helped to shape the rich history and legacy of our state and, in some cases, our nation.
On Sept. 17, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, together with the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, unveiled an official State Historical Marker on, 2010 honoring Maurice K. Goddard.
The new marker honoring Goddard appropriately stands in front of the office building that houses both the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Protection in Harrisburg.
Its inscription reads, "MAURICE K. GODDARD (1912-1995): Served five governors from 1955 to 1979 in an extraordinary career as Secretary of the former Departments of Environmental Resources and Forests and Waters. Goddard significantly expanded the state park system, established state forest natural and wild areas, and professionalized forestry and environmental management in state government. A leader in air and water resource management, he inspired environmental awareness nationwide."
Pennsylvania established its first state park in 1893 at the historic Valley Forge site. When Goddard became secretary of what was then called the Department of Forests and Waters in 1955, there were 45 parks throughout the state. But Goddard had an even greater vision for the park system and set an ambitious goal of establishing a state park with 25 miles of every Pennsylvanian. And during his 24 years of service as a cabinet officer, Goddard was able to realize that vision as he added another 45 state parks, totaling 130,000 acres of land, into the public trust.
Pennsylvania's park system now totals 117 state parks and three conservation areas, which comprise almost 300,000 acres. An estimated 38.6 million visitors came to Pennsylvania's state parks in 2009, an increase from 34.1 million in 2008.
As a further testament to the value of our network of state parks, Pennsylvania was honored in 2009 as the best in the nation when it received the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management by the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association.
In September of 2009, the multi-year Maurice K. Goddard Legacy Project was established to further honor the work of this amazing conservationist. Part of that effort will include rededicating Wykoff Run as Maurice Goddard Natural Area. Twenty-five interpretive panels celebrating Goddard's work and stewardship will be placed at selected parks around the state. The first of these interpretive panels will be unveiled at Sinnemahoning State Park tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the George B. Stevenson Dam Overlook.