Statement on the Proposed PA 2019-20 Budget
The Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society (PRPS) opposes Governor Wolf’s proposal to divert tens of millions of dollars of dedicated state funding for park and recreation projects in order to fund general governmental operations. General government operations have been traditionally—and properly—paid for out of the General Fund budget.
PRPS is the principal statewide association providing professional development, leadership, advocacy and resources for those working and volunteering in the parks and recreation field. It is an active and longstanding member of the Pennsylvania Growing Greener Coalition that has advocated for and defended dedicated funding for park and recreation projects. Polling has shown that this dedicated funding is consistently and overwhelmingly popular with the citizens of the Commonwealth.
The General Assembly created the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (Keystone Fund); and the Environmental Stewardship Fund; to provide a consistent, dedicated stream of income for a wide range of conservation and environmental purposes. The General Assembly and previous governors also supported dedicated revenue streams for these projects, such as a portion of landfill tipping fees and the realty transfer tax, so that project funding was long-term, consistent and not held hostage to the whims of the annual debate over the General Fund budget.
The Keystone Fund and Environmental Stewardship Fund monies are often used to fund multi-year projects such as the construction of park and trail projects. These projects generally have matching funds from local governments and a wide range of partners in the local community.
Every dollar in state grants typically leverages at least one dollar in local matching investments, and often the multiplier effect is much larger. By diverting multi-year funding committed for these projects to fund government operations, the Commonwealth is essentially abandoning its commitment to these projects and may be leaving local governments and community partners high and dry.
Budget proposals reflect many things, but fundamentally, they are about priorities. We urge the General Assembly to maintain its previous commitment to dedicated funding for these important park and recreation projects, and to properly fund government operations out of the General Fund budget.
Preschool Recreation and Child Day Care Center Certification Regulations
Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Day Care Certification regulations provide standards to aid in protecting the health, safety and rights of children to reduce risks in child day care centers.
The purpose of PA Code Title 55 Chapter 3270 is to facilitate the safe and healthful care of a child in a “child day care center.” These regulations extend to care provided for a preschool child in private or public, profit or nonprofit facilities, which by certain legal interpretation, include municipal recreation and park services.
While the safety and security of children enrolled in day camps, swim lessons, nature play, and other indoor and outdoor recreation programs is always vitally important, (including strict legal and ethical standards in staff recruitment and training), municipal recreation agencies also legitimately provide emotional, cognitive, communicative, perceptual-motor, physical and social development of children outside the confines of a “child day care center.”
PRPS affirms the tremendous personal and community value of (and popular demand for) safe and secure, developmentally appropriate, child-centered recreation services provided apart from certified child day care centers. However, the highly limiting restrictions imposed by the Code prevent most recreation providers from feasibly complying with such certification requirements in the outdoor settings of parks and the indoor multi-use amenities of recreation centers and other facilities.
On behalf of more than 2000 professional member practitioners, and parents, preschoolers and communities throughout the Commonwealth, PRPS advocates that public recreation and park programs be specifically exempted from complying with Child Day Care Center Certification regulations by the Department of Human Services.
Community Parks Protection
Many municipalities faced with difficult financial decisions may consider selling open space or community parks. While this may help resolve a fiscal problem in the short-term, it may also lead to a long-term loss.
The importance of local parks was recently affirmed by the Commonwealth’s Courts who found that under the Donated and Dedicated Property Act, parks cannot be disposed of or used for private purposes without an Orphans Court ruling. This decision supports the position that public parks and spaces are permanently protected providing community services and benefits including those that accrue to the local economy.
In 2017, The Outdoor Industry Association documented that Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation economy generates $29.1 Billion in consumer spending, $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue, $8.6 billion in wages and salaries, and sustains 251,000 direct Pennsylvania Jobs.
Local parks and open space areas help limit municipal expenses by reducing construction and impact on the streets system, sewer systems, and require less in terms of local services such as police, fire, and ambulance. “Green Parks” areas also help reduce the impacts of storm water for many communities.
A municipality may find relief in short term by selling public spaces but the long-term impact will be negative. PRPS supports protecting public spaces and preserving them in perpetuity.
Park and Recreation Investment
Investments in parks and recreation are often based on grants and alternate funding sources beyond the capacity of a municipality’s resources. Many recreational infrastructure improvements, land acquisitions, park and trail developments, and preservations would not be possible without funding from dedicated public park and conservation funding sources. These dedicated funds offer many recreational entities the ability to introduce or expand recreational opportunities throughout the Commonwealth.
Further, with the development of “green” parks, local municipalities and the state as a whole can reap the benefits of stormwater management and reduced flooding. With 2018 being the wettest year on record in Pennsylvania, the role that green parks can play is becoming increasingly important.
As of 2017, the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, the Environmental Stewardship Fund, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other funding streams have supported more than 2,400 community park development projects, including ballfields, playgrounds, pools, picnic areas, and recreation centers; and more than 300 trail projects for walking, bicycling and other recreation uses. Over time, the Keystone fund has leveraged $3 for every $1 invested.
These projects positively impact the Commonwealth’s economy. In 2017, Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation generated $29.1 Billion in consumer spending, $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue, $8.6 billion in wages and salaries, and sustained 251,000 direct Pennsylvania Jobs. (Outdoor Industry Association)
Keystone and other Commonwealth recreation and conservation funding sources are the supporting backbone of our recreational opportunities for residents of Pennsylvania. The protection and maintenance of these funding sources provides recreation opportunities for all Pennsylvanians—and their subsequent, substantial economic contributions.
Urban Parks & Recreation
Urban parks are not luxuries; they are essential infrastructure for 21st century cities. Nearly 80 percent of Pennsylvanians live in urban areas. Increasingly, many of our cities are challenged by aging water and transportation systems that are nearing or exceeding their designed capacity. Complicating the picture, a new focus on environmental resilience to flooding and other natural disasters is driving city planners to more strongly consider "mixed-use" infrastructure. Urban parks are the very definition of mixed use.
Perceptive leaders at the municipal and state levels know that community parks can grow local economies and attract businesses, workers and investment. And numerous studies have shown that the presence of a nearby park adds 15 to 20 percent to residential and commercial property values.
Investment in mixed-use urban infrastructure projects—those that include both parks and green space—is building a strong track record of leveraging public funds with private capital to address many of our most vexing urban challenges, including those relating to blight, transportation, stormwater management and access to recreation. Beyond the economic and environmental benefits of mixed-use infrastructure, there are the well-documented human health benefits of proximity to nature. Studies show that people exercise more if they have access to parks, and including nature in the built environment improves quality of life and revitalizes communities.
The ability to recover quickly from difficulties is a crucial capacity for any community’s prosperity. Such resiliency counters the effects of flooding, drought, invasive species, heat waves, and other shocks and stressors.
From mitigating serial flooding and protecting water resources through green infrastructure, to reducing urban heat waves through reforestation, to protecting the most vulnerable residents through social engagement, our parks and public spaces play a central, critical role in building resilient communities.
More than 75 percent of recreation and park agencies offer transportation alternatives that reduce carbon footprints. Seven in ten systems protect watersheds by implementing natural resource management practices; 53 percent improve air quality by increasing tree canopy. More than half of community recreation and parks reduce stormwater runoff and flooding through green infrastructure, and educate the public on sustainable actions.
Investing in our park and recreation systems, as our most adaptable assets for multiple benefits, contributes directly to our communities’ ability recover economically, environmentally and socially from natural disasters and other hazards. As our resiliency grows, so do the sustainable assets that create attractive, vibrant and prosperous communities.
Lyne and Other Tick-borne Diseases
Pennsylvania is far and away the national leader in cases of Lyme disease, and park and recreation professionals are on the front lines of protecting members of the public, especially children, who use the resources, facilities and programs that they manage. We wholeheartedly support public policies that better educate the public on the prevention and treatment of Lyme disease and other tickborne illnesses, and provide for their prompt diagnosis and effective treatment.
Pennsylvania has approximately 40 percent of the confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the United States. The number of confirmed cases in the Commonwealth rose from 2,271 in 2000 to 11,443 cases in 2016. Because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cases may be underreported by a factor of 10, the estimated number of cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania is well over 100,000 per year.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and other tickborne illnesses is critical to reducing the risk of symptoms that can affect every organ of the body. Many cases of Lyme disease are misdiagnosed as another physiological or even psychiatric condition, resulting in improper treatment and suffering.
PRPS supports legislation such as Senate Bill 100 that would require insurers in Pennsylvania to cover the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses as long as the diagnosis and treatment are documented in the patient’s medical record. Because different medical associations support either a short-term or long-term regimen of antibiotics to treat Lyme disease, the bill protects health care providers from disciplinary action from a professional licensing board for the prescription of any certain treatment.
In addition, PRPS supports legislation like House Bill 96 which would require that current information on the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and other tickborne illnesses be a part of continuing medical education for healthcare professionals.
Parks and Green Infrastructure
The use of green infrastructure in parks, trails and waterways is a cost-effective way for local and state governments to manage stormwater, improve water quality, and increase the resiliency of their communities in the face of climate change and more frequent extreme weather events.
Green infrastructure is the use of landscapes and natural systems to slow, reduce, capture and treat rainfall runoff where it occurs; whereas traditional “gray” infrastructure is expensive systems of pipes and concrete to transport stormwater runoff to a central location for treatment. Green infrastructure incorporates Best Management Practices, or BMPs, into park, trail and waterway systems in the form of rain gardens, infiltration basins, bioswales, pervious surfaces, flood plain restorations, and native tree and vegetative plantings.
Many parks, trails and other public recreational amenities are appropriate and attractive locations to implement green infrastructure because they are already publicly owned and operated. Incorporating green infrastructure into these locations elevates their value to the public, especially when viewed as an economical means to reduce flooding and improve water quality. Additional benefits of green infrastructure in park systems include:
- Opportunities to leverage funding from multiple grant funding sources for park, trail or waterway rehabilitation projects, resulting in minimal costs to local communities
- Creating a more varied park landscape with greater biodiversity and habitat types, including pollinator-friendly habitat
- Meeting the current and evolving needs and interests of an increasingly inclusive population of park and trail users
- Greater engagement opportunities for environmental education
- Investing in improvements to previously underserved areas of the community
- Economic revitalization of adjoining areas and increased property values
- Fewer mowed areas, resulting in lower park maintenance costs and emissions
While PRPS is very supportive of the increased use of green infrastructure in parks and other recreation areas, it is vital such efforts be accompanied by a plan to maintain the infrastructure, have a means to fund the maintenance tasks and proper equipment, and appropriately train park personnel in how to maintain the infrastructure.