Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s state park system is celebrating its centennial as one of the country’s largest and most popular recreational attractions. Each year, thirty-six million people visit one (or more) of the Keystone State’s one hundred and fourteen parks to picnic, hike, swim, boat, camp, ski, snowmobile, fish, hunt, or raft white water rapids. This sprawling collec­tion of open space covers an impressive two hundred and seventy-seven thousand acres – roughly the size of either Beaver or Mifflin County. Parks range in size from Union County’s tiny Sand Bridge State Park, with just three acres, to Pymatuning State Park in Crawford County, with twenty-one thousand acres hugging the Ohio border.

Pennsylvania is the thirty­-third largest state, but only Alaska and California have more park land. Its parks are as diverse in character as they are in size. While most contain a mixture of recreational facilities, such as a lake, picnic area, and cabins, some highlight historic sites or natural and ecological features. Still others are specialty­-oriented, such as those catering to skiers or horseback riders. While some nestle in the deepest reaches of the Commonwealth’s northcentral forests, several are actually located in cities. And curiously enough, Pennsylvania’s most heavily used state park is not at all typical of the state’s geography: Presque Isle State Park at Erie features miles and miles of beaches along a peninsula extending into the blue waters of Lake Erie.

The setting aside of park land in Pennsylvania began when conservation-minded citizens protested the practices of lumbering companies, which clear-cut entire mountainsides, leaving behind a wasteland of a million acres known as the “Pennsylvania desert.” In the ethical mindset of the nineteenth century, the great stands of hemlock, locust, pine, walnut, and oak existed solely for harvesting, and the practice of reforesta­tion was decades in the future. Thirty thousand sawmills were operating in the United States by the late 1880s, and Pennsylvania’s lumber industry generated twenty­-nine million dollars annually – a staggering, almost incredible, increase from one million dollars just a few decades earlier! Logging companies felled hundreds of thousands of trees, transported them by rail or water to sawmills or tanneries, and simply moved on, abandoning the pillaged forests. With the timber down and its canopy of leaves gone, erosion further defiled the devastated land­scape. When property taxes came due, no one was left to pay them, and so the vast plundered tracts were sold at sheriff’s sales, often to the Commonwealth of Pennsylva­nia for as little as two dollars an acre. This acquisition program – begun quite inauspiciously – actually initiated the accumulation of publicly owned forest land that became the nucleus for state forests and state parks.

Twentieth century industrialization created the condi­tions that gave rise to a popular voice for the creation of parks. Rampant industrial­ization concentrated people’s residences in crowded, gritty, and noisy cities, from which urban dwellers sought refuge in the rural woodlands. By mechanizing many tasks, industrialization also gave the average citizen more leisure time to enjoy the great outdoors by fishing, hiking, swimming, picnicking, and camping. During this century, two governmental programs helped immeasurably to develop a system of state parks. The Civilian Conserva­tion Corps (CCC) in the 1930s gave a tremendous boost to the system, creating new parks and improving many existing areas. In the 1960s and 1970s, conservation bond issues enabled the Commonwealth to aggressively expand its system of parks. While public officials enthusiastically endorsed this expansion, they proved unwilling to allocate the funds necessary to maintain those facilities. The result is unfortu­nate because a backlog of one hundred million dollars in deferred maintenance has accumulated since the mid-1970s.

In a sense, the system of parks has come full circle, but not entirely in a happy way. While priceless and impossible to replace, the parks system is desperately in need of restora­tion. Fortunately, the state legislature passed a bill during summer 1993 – signed into law by Acting Gov. Mark S. Singel – to begin to address the seemingly endless list of deferred work projects. Just as state government authorized acquisition of spoiled lands to reclaim and beautify for public use, it also has authorized much-needed maintenance as a rescue measure.

Popular support for state parks originally grew out of the forestry movement in the late nineteenth century. In 1886, Dr. Joseph Trimble Rothrock and others organized the Pennsylvania Forestry Association (PFA) to promote conservation practices. Considered by many as the father of forestry in Pennsylva­nia, Rothrock was a respected naturalist who had conducted studies in South America and British Columbia. Within a few years, the Pennsylvania Forestry Association proposed the creation of “An Alleghany Mountain Park,” citing New York’s efforts to undertake a similar project in the Adirondacks. Little progress was made on its proposal, but the PFA supported the creation of all parks, regard­less of whether they were in rural or urban settings, and advocated the formation of a national historical park at Valley Forge, the site of Gen. George Washington’s winter 1777-1778 encampment (see “The Apotheosis of George Washington: America’s Cincinnatus and the Valley Forge Encampment” by William C. Kashatus III in this issue). In 1893, Valley Forge became Pennsylvania’s first state park when Gov. Robert E. Pattison signed a bill appropriating twenty-five thousand dollars to purchase the land (see “Valley Forge: Celebrating the Centennial of a National Symbol” by Lorett Treese in the spring 1993 edition). Approved on May 30, 1893, the bill also established a ten member commission to manage the park. Eventually, the property was enlarged and improved. In his farewell message of January 1, 1907, Gov. Samuel W. Pennypacker offered a worthwhile sugges­tion. “The State ought to maintain [Valley Forge Park] forever. Every American and especially every Pennsylva­nian ought to go to Valley Forge as the saints of Mohammed went to Mecca.”

Joseph T. Rothrock, meanwhile, was named head of the newly formed State Forestry Commission. During his tenure, he acquired five hundred thousand acres on behalf of the Commonwealth for reforestation and set up a series of forest parks. The first of these parks were established on the sites of early (and historic) iron furnaces and forges. (These furnaces and forges had been located by ironmasters in the midst of forests because of their need for charcoal.) On May 1, 1902, Mont Alto State Forest Park in Franklin County, southeast of Chambersburg, became the first of Rothrock’s prized acquisitions. On January 22, 1903, the Commonwealth purchased the site for Caledonia State Forest Park, not far from Mont Alto, and three years later, acquired seventeen thousand acres in Mifflin and Huntingdon counties, including the property of the Greenwood Iron Furnace, for the creation of the Greenwood Furnace State Park. In 1913, Pennsylva­nia acquired the Pine Grove Furnace tract (now Pine Grove Furnace State Park) in Cumberland County, near the Caledonia and Mont Alto parks.

In the opening decades of this century, the park system began to expand its holdings of historic sites. In July 1917, Gov. Martin Brumbaugh approved the formation of two parks in southeastern Pennsyl­vania, Washington Crossing State Park in Bucks County, where General Washington launched his attack on the British at Trenton, New Jersey, on December 25, 1776, and Fort Washington State Park in Montgomery County, where the general and his troops encamped in late 1777.

While historic sites re­mained popular with visitors, the public’s interest in camp­ing burgeoned. About 1904, the Commonwealth began to regulate the practice by issuing permits. Most permits were granted to individuals and their families who wanted to set up a tent while they were hunting and fishing. In 1913, the state’s Forestry Depart­ment began to issue ten year leases for semi-permanent camp sites, allowing individu­als or groups to build structures on quarter-acre plots of state-owned property. But it was not long until state officials realized there existed two distinct types of campers.

Government authorities had been familiar with the traditional campers who wanted to stay in one place for a few days, weeks, or even months. But the coming of the automobile age gave rise to a new breed, the tourist camper. In the days before commercial tourist cabins, guest cottages, and roadside motels, these travelers simply wanted to pitch a tent for the night and drive on in the morning. By the 1920s, Pennsylvania maintained ten Class A public campgrounds for tourists along main roads, while sixteen Class B public camp­grounds were opened on secondary roads. Although the two types were similar, Class A sites featured spaces for motorists’ tents, while Class B sites featured an open lean-to. Some of both types of sites were located at or near state parks, and others were built in state forests.

The continuing drive to develop state parks began to draw momentum and energy from the national parks movement. In 1916, Pres. Woodrow Wilson had signed into law the National Park Service Act. Stephen T. Mather, an Assistant Secretary of the Interior who had heavily promoted the concept, was appointed first director of the service. Mather organized and chaired in January 1921 a national meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, to support and encourage the development of state parks. At the time, only fifteen states had state parks; twenty-nine had no public­-access parks at all.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Forestry reported that in 1921 eighty thousand people fished, hunted, and camped in the state forests. Of those, twenty thousand leased more than seven hundred and fifty permanent campsites, and five thousand used temporary camps under permits. Another fifty-five thousand people participated in hiking or other activities.

In 1923, the Department of Forests and Waters (renamed from the Department of Forestry) distributed press releases to newspapers throughout the Common­wealth, noting that the department operated seven “forest parks,” totaling two hundred and forty-six acres. Offering tables, benches, and water supplies, they were clearly intended for day, rather than overnight, use.

Today, Gifford Pinchot is best known for having served two terms as Pennsylvania’s Progressive Republican governor, from 1923 to 1927 and from 1931 to 1935. Before he attracted renown as a politician and government leader, he was known first and foremost as a deeply commit­ted conservationist. In fact, he is widely credited with having coined the term “conserva­tion.” He had joined the Pennsylvania Forestry Association in 1887, studied forestry in Europe after graduating from Yale in 1889, helped establish a forestry school at his alma mater, and later served as one of its professors.

Pinchot served as United States Forestry Commissioner under Pres. Theodore Roosevelt. Fired in 1910 by Roosevelt’s successor, Pres. William Howard Taft, in a dispute with a federal official over commercialization of federal lands in the West, Pinchot returned to Pennsyl­vania and became State Forest Commissioner in 1919. He later collaborated with Col. Henry W. Shoemaker, a member of the forestry commission, to organize public committees in 1921 to study fifteen sites for “public recreation centers.” Several of the sites studied became picnic areas or state parks. Later in life, Pinchot succinctly summarized his dedication to conservation. “I have been a governor every now and then, but I am a forester all the time.”

Use of camping facilities throughout the Keystone State continued to remain popular. A letter written by a district forester at Wellsboro, seeking funding for improvements at Darling Run Public Camp, reflects the public’s interest in outdoor recreation during summer 1924. The letter survives in the holdings of the Pennsylvania State Archives at Harrisburg.

If we could build a few little fireplaces with a single low table, we will be able to control the picnickers and not have the parties stop at any spot which their eye lights on … the visitors have outgrown the old plot.

Several times last summer, rain caught people at Darling Camp, of course, (it) not only spoiled the day but caused some loss as there is no shelter. This year one man got in that trouble twice, his whole family getting soaked. With those who go in cars, the matter is not serious as they may quickly leave or else get inside, but where a party hires a taxi to take them and have it return at tire end of the day, the arrangement leaves them without any means of shelter when sudden storms come.

If possible to have it, I suggest that we soon build such a place. What it is like does not matter, so long as roof is solid.

Officials in Harrisburg heeded the district forester’s request, and allocated one hundred and twenty-five dollars to build a shelter and two fireplaces.

The late twenties saw the establishment of one of the Commonwealth’s most significant parks, Cook Forest in Clarion, Jefferson, and Forest counties. This was a ten thousand acre stand of virgin white pine, second-growth pine, hemlock, and hard­woods, owned by a longtime family lumbering business, A. W. Cook Sons. Many trees were three to four centuries old, with their lowest branches towering more than one hundred feet above the ground! As early as 1911, the Commonwealth had author­ized a study of the site, but nothing came of the idea until the state legislature authorized the expenditure of four hundred and fifty thousand dollars, to be matched by two hundred thousand dollars raised by private donations collected by a conservation group, the Cook Forest Association. The Cook Forest Association raised its share, and on December 29, 1928, the Department of Forests and Waters assumed ownership of the vast tract, for which deeds are registered in three coun­ties.

Although the Great Depression caused suffering and hardship for many Pennsylvanians, it greatly benefited the state parks system. In a New Deal program to offer unemploy­ment relief, Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an act creating a program known at first as Emergency Conserva­tion Work, and later as the Civilian Conservation Corps. Beginning in 1933 – when forty percent of Pennsylvanians were out of work – the program employed about three million young men, unmarried and unemployed United States citizens between the ages of seventeen and twenty-three, in hundreds of forestry and park development encampments throughout the nation. Each camp housed one hundred and fifty to three hundred men, who were each paid thirty dollars a month. Their tasks included laying roads, clearing trails, con­structing bridges, thinning forests, stocking fish, stringing telephone wires, siting picnic areas, and building swimming pools, cabins, fire towers, and shelters.

It was Robert Y. Stuart, a Pennsylvanian who held the position of U. S. Forester­ – Gifford Pinchot’s old post – who had suggested that the Civilian Conservation Corps work on state projects be allowed. Stuart had been Pennsylvania’s Deputy Forestry Commissioner, then, in 1922, Forestry Commis­sioner, and, finally, Secretary of the Department of Forests and Waters from 1923 to 1927. He supported inclusion of state park work in the list of eligible CCC projects, believ­ing that otherwise only western states would benefit, as most eastern states lacked federal land reserves.

In just one year, the CCC in Pennsylvania boasted one hundred and four camps, ninety-two of which were situated in state forests or parks; within two years, the total increased by nine to one hundred and thirteen camps. A parks historian believes the CCC accomplished more in ten years than normal events would have allowed in fifty. For park officials, the development of existing sites and the creation of new parks meant one thing: an increased flow of visitors, and dealing with them was not always as smooth as they would have hoped. Patrons complained about the condition of latrines, lack of parking, lack of staff, rude staff, and something new, user fees.

User fees chiefly affected campers and cabin renters. Effective June 1, 1936, the Commonwealth levied a one dollar a week fee for camping, which originally had been free. Cabin rental fees rose, upset­ting some loyal park users. Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Banks of Pittsburgh drove one hundred miles to Cook Forest one night, planning to rent a cabin as usual at one dollar per night. But when they arrived to find that the fee had been increased to one dollar per person per night, they balked, turned around, and drove home.

As the Great Depression eased, the National Park Service (NPS) created five Recreational Demonstration Areas to place outdoor facilities nearer to city dwell­ers. Most of the existing state parks were rural, having been established on former lumber tracts. The NPS, assisted by CCC and other New Deal labor programs, established parks at French Creek (near Reading), Raccoon Creek (near Pittsburgh), Laurel Hill (near Somerset), Blue Knob (near Johnstown), and Hickory Run (near Jim Thorpe). This was not the first time – nor was it the last – that efforts would be made to bring parks to the people.

The outbreak of World War II affected state parks little, except that at Valley Forge a rifle range was built and some military training took place. With the end of the war in 1945, the federal government began to transfer properties to Pennsylvania for state park use. In September and Octo­ber, four of the five demonstration parks were turned over to the Common­wealth, and the fifth was transferred the following year.

One postwar priority was urban redevelopment in the Commonwealth’s largest cities. Pittsburgh’s civic and political leaders embarked on the city’s much-touted – and extremely successful­ – Renaissance program, ridding the air of heavy industrial smoke and focusing on developing a new downtown section, crowned by Point State Park (where the original Fort Pitt blockhouse still stands) at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Although the thirty-six acre park was not completed until the 1970s, property acquisition and warehouse demolition began in 1946. On the eastern end of the Keystone State, work was under way to improve the setting around Independence Hall in Philadel­phia.

The period following World War II also saw greater ownership of automobiles and more leisure time, which increased Pennsylvanians’ opportunities to use the parks. From 1951 to 1954, five parks were opened – Shawnee in Bedford County, Chapman in Warren County, Crooked Creek in Armstrong County, Big Pocono in Monroe County, and Samuel S. Lewis in York County. The opening of the Samuel S. Lewis State Park was most unusual because the thirty-five acre site overlook­ing the Susquehanna River was donated by the individual for whom it was named, none other than the Secretary of Forests and Waters. But this was only the beginning of an unprecedented chapter of expansion that lay ahead.

George Leader was elected governor in 1954, the first Democrat since the Great Depression and only the second in the twentieth century. He chose as his Secretary of Forests and Waters Maurice K. Goddard, director of the forestry school at the Pennsyl­vania State University. Although he was largely apolitical and worked hard to minimize patronage in his staff, Goddard ranks as one of the most effective cabinet members in Pennsylvania’s history, serving six terms under five governors (three Democrats and two Republicans). He was unusually adept at encouraging legislative programs to benefit conservation and parks.

One of Maurice K. Goddard’s first and most important goals was to place a state park within twenty-five miles of every Pennsylvanian. At the time, Pennsylvania had forty-four state parks and most were located in rural areas. Goddard’s idea required money, of course. To finance his project the Leader admin­istration used the Oil and Gas Lease Fund Act, which earmarked royalties from oil and gas taken from state­-owned land specifically to be spent for conservation, recreation development, and land acquisition. The Depart­ment of Forests and Waters initiated a study of one hundred and seventy-five potential sites for new parks. Work began almost immedi­ately on thirteen sites, the first of which, McConnell’s Mill in Lawrence County, opened as a state park on October 5, 1957. Others included Gifford Pinchot State Park in northern York County, Moraine State Park in Butler County, and Prince Gallitzin State Park in Cambria County. The pace quickened. Three parks opened in 1958, one in 1959, one in 1960, and five in 1961. Park attendance had tripled since Goddard took office, skyrocketing from eight million visitors in 1955 to twenty-four million in 1961!

But Secretary Maurice K. Goddard was not yet satis­fied.

He began promoting the first of two referendum bond issues to raise money specifi­cally for forestry, conservation, parks, im­proved water quality, and pollution control. The bond issue was christened Project 70, reflecting both the amount to be raised, seventy million dollars, and the projected year of completion, 1970. Gov. David L. Lawrence, a Demo­crat, and the state legislature approved the measure only after two legislative sessions. In the meantime, Governor Lawrence was succeeded by a Republican, William W. Scranton, who not only retained Goddard but also endorsed Project 70. A second legislative approval enabled the measure to be placed before the voters in fall 1963, and it won approval by a margin of one hundred and thirteen thousand votes. Voters’ enthusiastic response encouraged the acquisition of land for new parks almost immediately.

Sites that opened following the passage of Project 70 included Elk State Park in Elk County (1964), Susquehannock State Park in Lancaster County, and Warriors Path in Bedford County (1965), Curwensville State Park in Clearfield County (1966), Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County (1967), and Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County (1968). Not all of these parks met the criterion of proximity to cities, but several did achieve other conservation-related goals by being built in conjunction with flood-control reservoirs.

In 1964, Pittsburgh’s well known banking family, the Mellons, donated Laurel Mountain Slopes, a Westmoreland County ski area, which made its debut as Laurel Mountain State Park. Memorial Lake State Park, surrounded by Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, was opened to public use that year. Located about eighteen miles east of Harrisburg, this is the site of the official residence of the Commonwealth’s lieuten­ant governor.

As remarkable as it was, even this dizzying pace of park openings did not satisfy the irrepressible Goddard. Having capitalized on public mood and political will, he continued to press on. The gubernatorial election of 1966 placed Raymond P. Shafer in office. A Republican like his predecessor, Scranton, Governor Shafer kept Goddard as Secretary of Forests and Waters. Ever the visionary, Goddard was hard at work charting a new master plan for funding conservation and parks – Project 500, another bond-issue referen­dum, this time for five hundred million dollars. The measure was designed to attack environmental devasta­tion on many fronts, including reclaiming abandoned strip mines and treating acid mine pollution. A portion of the bond money was earmarked for developing parks on property originally acquired under Project 70.

A public-private committee to support Project 500 and eight other referendum questions was organized. Former governors George Leader and William W. Scranton served as chairmen, and one member was a former senator from Lackawanna County who eventually became governor, Robert P. Casey. Pennsylvanians did not disappoint Goddard and the committee; on May 16, 1967, voters approved Project 500 by a two-to-one margin! The first park built with Project 500 funding was Codorus State Park in York County, which opened on May 9, 1970. Two additional parks – both very unusual and distinctly different – also opened that year. Moraine State Park in Butler County illustrated the reclamation value of Project 500. Situated on the site of a glacial lake that had been fouled with gas and oil wells and coal mining, it required the sealing of deep mines, filling of strip mines, and plugging of more than four hundred gas and oil wells. In bucolic Bucks County, Neshaminy State Park Marina opened on land donated by the estate of Robert R. Logan, a direct descendant of James Logan, secretary to founder William Penn.

To many, the creation of parks and recreational areas may seem to be a politically innocuous issue, but one burning question reverberated time and again throughout the halls and chambers of the state capitol during this period. The controversial issue was the establishment of entry fees. Some legislators and organiza­tions persistently pushed for charges or vehicle admission stickers, ranging from two to five dollars, similar to those in use in other states and at several national parks. Whether intentionally or not, Goddard invoked the populist stance of Pinchot, arguing that the long tradition of free access was intended to keep parks available to as many people as possible. “The economic and social benefits of the present system are so far-reaching that the Commonwealth can afford this small subsidy,” Goddard said. “You don’t put parking meters in shopping plazas, because you want people to come. We want people to use our parks, too.” At budget hearings, he intimidated legislators, contending that if they wanted fees, they should pass laws imposing them. Goddard was keenly aware that this move would be politically unwise for them and, of course, he knew they would never pursue such legislation.

Goddard stayed on in the cabinet of Gov. Milton J. Shapp, a Democrat, after his election in fall 1970. In a January 1971 administrative reorganization, the Depart­ment of Forests and Waters was swept into a new Depart­ment of Environmental Resources (DER), but this had little effect on the Bureau of State Parks, which was still in the midst of Project 500 expansion. Two parks opened that year, including one of the state’s most scenic, Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County, which eventually expanded to eighteen thousand acres along a fourteen-mile stretch of the Youghiogheny River Gorge. The zenith of Project 500’s park expansion was reached in 1971. Despite the destruction wreaked by Tropical Storm Agnes, the Commonwealth managed to open nine parks that year. Of ninety-two state parks in operation, the storm affected sixty-three, closing thirty-three and damaging thirty others. In all, Agnes caused six million dollars worth of damage to the parks. After 1972, the state continued to acquire property, but the acquisition and development of new parks occurred less frequently as DER concen­trated on developing and improving existing sites.

Over the years, various parks were both acquired and eliminated as new priorities and budgets developed. While parks were transferred to other state agencies, such as the Game Commission and the Bureau of Forestry, some were downgraded to picnic areas, several were turned over to local municipal management; and a few were transferred to the federal government. The most significant of these transfers took place when the National Park Service took over two sites in anticipation of the nation’s Bicentennial in 1976. The first was Indepen­dence Mall State Park in Philadelphia, which in 1975 became Independence Na­tional Historical Park. The second involved Pennsylvania’s first state park, Valley Forge. On July 4, 1976, Pres. Gerald R. Ford visited the site of General Washington’s winter 1777-1778 encampment to sign legislation transferring the sprawling park, encompassing more than twenty-two hundred and fifty acres, to become Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Although Pennsylvania continued to open some new parks, the fiscal strain of running such a large system was beginning to show. A site under construction in Berks County, to have been chris­tened Blue Marsh State Park, was completed in 1978, but was transferred to the Penn­sylvania Game Commission because DER lacked funding to operate it. This clearly signaled the proverbial “beginning of the end” of Maurice K. Goddard’s fabled era of expansion. In 1978, voters elected Dick Thornburgh governor, and he chose Clifford L. Jones Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources, ending Goddard’s six terms of cabinet service, a record still unmatched. During his watch, Goddard had nearly tripled the number of state parks. Even more importantly, he had achieved his goal of placing parks within twenty­-five miles of every resident.

The Commonwealth added several developed sites to the system in the 1980s, but the seventeen hundred acre Marsh Creek State Park near Downingtown, Chester County, which opened on July 1, 1979, was the last state park built under the Project 70 and Project 500 expansion pro­grams. The Bureau of State Parks began concentrating primarily on developing existing sites. Among its construction projects were bathhouses, beaches, boat ramps, campgrounds, camp­sites, marinas, modern cabins, picnic areas, swimming facilities, trails, and visitor centers. Moreover, the time had come to devote attention to the human facets of park operation, including recruiting and training volunteers; managing youth, employment, and welfare programs; encouraging cultural events, such as theater productions, folklife festivals, and craft fairs; improving accessibility for the handicapped; and promoting environmental education.

The Thornburgh adminis­tration attempted to control the costs of operating state parks by increasing fees for boating, camping, electrical hookups, and pavilion use. Moreover, the Commonwealth leased three ski areas, Denton Hill, Laurel Mountain, and Black Moshannon, to conces­sionaires. Several swimming pools in state parks were also leased to commercial opera­tors. Even with these measures, however, both operating and maintenance funds consistently fell far short of the needs, and staffing levels were reduced.

Parks are not usually thought of as being agents of social change, but the 1980s brought new opportunities. In early 1983, Greene County’s Ryerson Station State Park served as the pilot site for Governor Thornburgh’ s Community Work Experience Program, popularly called “workfare,” in which able­-bodied welfare recipients worked in public-service positions to earn benefits. Other cultural transformations were afoot, and in 1987 the Department of Environmental Resources appointed its first female park assistant superin­tendent, Mary B. Herrold, at French Creek State Park in Berks County.

When Gov. Dick Thornburgh left office at the end of his second term, he was succeeded by Gov. Robert P. Casey, in 1987. Governor Casey appointed Arthur A. Davis, a Pennsylvania State University forestry professor, as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources. Under Davis’ administration, the park system undertook strategic planning to chart its future. Although the staff was familiar with the effects of deferred maintenance – vandalism, closed swimming areas, uncut grass, leaking sewage systems, broken windows, rotting marina docks, eroding trails, warped picnic tables – Davis gave these problems a public dimension in 1988 when he told a newspaper reporter that the system needed ninety million dollars in repairs. “The system is in trouble,” he said.

“At the present level of funding and staffing we cannot continue to operate a quality system. Either we need more resources or we need to cut the size of the system or cut some of the services it provides.”

The system had grown to more tJ,an two hundred and seventy thousand acres in one hundred and fourteen parks, and the problem was old and familiar. Parks director William C. Forrey noted that legislators often showed enthusiasm for ribbon-cuttings on new projects or programs, but not for funding mundane maintenance work such as cleaning rest rooms, mowing grass, or painting buildings. Fortunately, help and hope were on the horizon in the form of several studies confirming public support for state parks and recommending legislative assistance.

When DER held a ceremony at Valley Forge on May 30, 1993, to mark the centennial of the state park system, state officials honored a century-old legacy, even though they harbored uncertainty about the future of the parks system. Not much later, the state legisla­ture passed House Bill 52, and on July 2, Acting Governor Singel signed into law the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund Act. It provides for a stable funding base from two sources: a portion of the realty transfer tax and – reminiscent of the Goddard years – a fifty million dollar bond issue referendum.

If past is prologue to the future, Pennsylvanians may rest a bit easier, able to take comfort in knowing that the Keystone State’s parks and recreational areas will again be safeguarded. As the state parks system enters its second century, residents should truly appreciate the beauty and bounty that awaits them – all within twenty-five miles of home.


For Further Reading

Beers, Paul B. Pennsylvania Politics, Today and Yester­day. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981.

Cupper, Dan. Our Priceless Heritage: Pennsylvania State Parks, 1893-1993. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Department of Environmental Resources, 1993.

Forrey, William C. History of Pennsylvania’s State Parks. Harrisburg: Department of Environmental Resources, 1984.

Hart, John Robbins. Valley Forge During World War II. New York: American Historical Company, Inc., 1944.

Salmond, John A. The Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942: A New Deal Case Study. Durham: Duke University Press, 1966.

Shoemaker, Henry, and Joseph S. Illick. In Penn’s Woods. Harrisburg: Department of Forests and Waters, 1928.

Tilden, Freeman. The State Parks: Their Meaning in American Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928.

Treese, Lorett. “Valley Forge: Commemorating the Centennial of a National Symbol.” Pennsylvania Heritage. 19, 2 (Spring 1993).

Woodman, Henry. The History of Valley Forge. Oaks, Pa.: John Francis, Sr., 1922.


Dan Cupper, Harrisburg, is a freelance writer whose previous contributions to Pennsylvania Heritage have included “Grif Teller Paints the Pennsy” (winter 1990), “America’s Dream Highway” (fall 1990), “The Romance of Agriculture” (winter 1991), and “Ninety-Five Years of The Pennsylvania Society: A ‘Who’s Who’ of Business and Politics” (fall 1993). He is the author of several books, the most recent of which, Crossroads of Commerce: Tire Pennsylvania Railroad Calendar Art of Grif Teller, is reviewed in “Bookshelf” in the winter 1994 issue.