PENFIELD, CLEARFIELD COUNTY---State parks are dealing with some major budget cuts, and officials say, if things continue the way they’re going, visitors will notice a major difference.
Pennsylvania State Parks just won the National Gold Medal Award from the National Recreation and Park Association for the best state parks in the country, but officials say they won’t be able to keep up those impressive standards without some major budgetary adjustments.
George Witaker has been coming to visit Parker Dam since it opened in 1938, and he says the state should be investing in its state parks now more than ever.
“People don’t have the money to take on vacations, so now they’re just staying closer to home and enjoying our fine Pennsylvania parks,” Witaker said.
The state has cut the parks’ budget by 15%; that’s about $89,000 for Parker Dam alone, and park officials said they’ve already had to make cuts.
Parker Dam Park Manager Beth Grove said“We did have a reduction of two maintenance staff at this park, and that has caused a little bit of a backlog, but we’re trying to keep up as best we can.”
Visitors have already noticed a difference.
“Just looking around the parks today, we’re seeing less maintenance done, obviously less mowing, less caring of the facilities, things like that, so I think it’s going to get worse,” said park visitor, David Hockenburry.
Maintenance is just one change visitors will notice. They’ll also see a drop in programs offered at the parks.
“We have had to reduce the amount of staff that does those programs,” Grove said, “But luckily we do have a salaried educator here on our staff, and he’s able to pick up some of that slack, but not all.”
With the parks being such a big part of the region, residents are hoping state officials will find the funds to allocate to keeping the state parks up to the standards that people have come to expect.
“This is foolish to try and skimp and save money on the park system,” Witaker said, “We have some of the finest parks in the United States here in Pennsylvania.”
Officials say the state parks are now at their breaking point, and if there are any more cuts made to their budget, visitors will see a huge drop in quality and services.