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State parks deserve attention

This is an excellent time for state lawmakers to be more proactive on behalf of state parks and their respective facilities.

The parks provide numerous opportunities to enjoy sunshine and fresh air amid the necessity for social distancing that COVID-19 has wrought.

It probably is safe to say that, for many people of Pennsylvania, the coronavirus has spawned a new awareness of the advantages and opportunities that the state parks provide.

Recognizing what is right in individual parks and what ought to be changed, then addressing the needs in the short and longer terms, will be an incentive for people to continue coming back, even after the pandemic is out of the picture.

Consider one Southern Alleghenies example: Shawnee State Park in Bedford County. There was a time when there was much more shoreline conducive to fishing, but over the years, that shoreline has become choked off by weeds and other growth.

It is difficult for children — and their parents and grandparents — to enjoy fishing when the space for that activity is as limited as it is now.

Of course, the current situation is ripe for good fishing for adult anglers who prefer to fish from a boat, but fishing from a boat is unsafe for unsupervised young children.

If something could be done to open up more fishing space for families who prefer to fish from the shore it would be in the best interests of Shawnee and perhaps other parks, without interfering with boat fishermen.

On June 9, the Mirror published an article about how state officials were anticipating increased public demand for outdoor recreation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A senior adviser to the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary was quoted as saying “we expect the demand for outdoor recreation will continue to be strong as people seek close-to-home opportunities for travel, health and wellness.”

Certainly, some of the issues in parks might have roots in reduced or inadequate state funding, but some could be addressed by way of small projects that could have added up to a significant result over time.

It is such efforts that need to be identified and acted upon, going forward, if these great recreational resources that the Keystone State boasts are to flourish to serve Pennsylvanians in the way they deserve and need.

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