State parks and forests are the safest places to be during a pandemic


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State parks and forests are the safest places to be during a pandemic

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PPFF President Marci Mowery wrote to the Harrisburg Patriot-News on 8/9/2020:

Kudos to the editors of the Patriot News for recognizing the important role our state parks and forests have played during the pandemic, as well as the value they deliver daily. Pennsylvania’s parks and forests are economic engines for the Commonwealth—with the state ranking 5th in the nation for consumer spending in outdoor recreation. This translates into a whopping $29.1 billion spent annually, which supports 251,000 jobs ($8.6 billion in wage and salary annually) and returns $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue.

More important are the health benefits. Being outdoors during the pandemic is one the safest places to be. Yet even apart from these unusual times, our parks and forests play an important role in protecting and enhancing human health. Pennsylvanians consistently rank access to parks as an important part of their overall health plan. Spending time outdoors helps to reduce stress and stress related illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Movement—and people do tend to move more when outside—reduces weight, improves mood, alleviates pain from arthritis, and can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Our bodies require short doses of sunshine to manufacture Vitamin D, which has been shown to play an important role in many bodily functions.

Parks and forests play a critical role in protecting air quality and protecting water quality, which are also directly correlated to human health.

Yet years of underfunding have put these places in a precarious position, with a billion-dollar need for maintenance and infrastructure improvements. Recently, the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation released a new website (ProtectOurParksandForests.org) outlining the need for investment in this shared resource. Indeed, it is an investment, for as you see, these special places return to the state in human health and economic gain. We call on the General Assembly and Congress to not only protect existing funding to our parks and forests (including special funds such as the Keystone Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund) but to allocate additional funding as part of any stimulus package at the state and federal levels.

When you consider the benefits our state parks and forests give us every day – including during these strange and uncertain ones – it is hard not to agree that they are deserving of support from each and all of us. They are the very nature of our common wealth.

Marci Mowery, President, Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation

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State parks and forests are the safest places to be during a pandemic