The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation has announced the fall grant round for projects proposing land acquisition, planning, development, rehabilitation, maintenance, equipment purchase or educational programs for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or snowmobile trails and facilities. Grant funding is awarded through a competitive grant application process. Applicants can apply between August 3, 2020, and September 30, 2020, by means of the Department’s online grant application portal. A brief recorded webinar on the ATV and snow-mobile grant program is available on the Department’s website. More information about these grant opportunities and the application process is available at https://brcgrants.dcnr.pa.gov
DCNR has announced that they are updating the 2014-2019 Pennsylvania Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan (PDF), which provided the outline and goals for the development of a statewide greenways and trails network.
The plan will be updated based existing data survey responses and input from external partners and stakeholders, a completed assessment of the 2014 plan’s progress, and feedback from specialized trail user groups.
The 2020-2024 trail plan will be a companion document to the 2020-2024 Pennsylvania Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. DCNR will be accepting comments on the draft trail recommendations and actions through Thursday, June 25, through an online survey.
The Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resourcs – Bureau of Recreation and Conservation shared the news that hikers, bikers, and cross-country skiers have 5.9 miles of new trail to explore in Westmoreland County. The Westmoreland Heritage Trail recently finished the Turtle Creek Extension with help from a $500,000 DCNR grant. Funding came from the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund. The funding leveraged another $1.6 million in matching dollars, raising the project investment to more than $2.1 million.
The Westmoreland Heritage Trail now covers 8.6 miles from Saltsburg to Delmont and 9.3 miles from Export to Trafford. A long-term goal for the trail is to connect the two pieces together into a single 22-mile trail across Westmoreland County.
The trail has seen increased use during the COVID-19 pandemic. During April and May of 2019, the trail averaged around 800 users per day according to a trail counter in Murrysville. In 2020, trail use has more than doubled to over 1,800 users per day. “We’re continuing to see our parks and trails being more heavily used as people seek relief from the stress of everything surrounding this pandemic,” says Brandon Simpson, Assistant Director at the Westmoreland County Bureau of Parks and Recreation. “One positive thing we can take away from this awful situation is the value and importance of accessible parks, trails, and open spaces.”
As with any outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic, confirm that a facility is open before visiting. Also remember to follow guidance on recreating outdoors such as recreating locally, avoiding crowded areas, and wearing a mask if you are in an area with other people.
On May 19, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced that May 19 was the opening day statewide for all All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) trails in state forests.
Dunn noted this is occurring several days before the start of the normal season – typically the Friday before the Memorial Day holiday – to reduce opening weekend crowding and provide more opportunities for social distancing.
“In most years, the opening weekend and other holiday weekends throughout the summer tend to draw large amounts of ATV enthusiasts to trails,” Dunn said. “While ATV riders ride on separate machines at distances farther apart than six feet, the parking areas will be crowded on the bigger weekends, including the opener.
“DCNR is opening the trails several days early to spread out the crowds and allow for greater social distancing practices as part of COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” Dunn said.
The opening date also applies to designated motorcycle trails in Bald Eagle State Forest, including a dual sport trail running through the Seven Mountains region and a trail for off-highway motorcycles on Shade Mountain.
ATV riding is only permitted on designated trails in Pennsylvania state forests. State forest roads, state parks, and state game lands are not open to ATV riding.
The DCNR website has the locations of the 11 ATV trail systems on state forest lands.
All ATVs in Pennsylvania — except ATVs used solely for business or agricultural purposes — need to be registered and titled. There are approximately 170,000 registered ATVs in Pennsylvania. All ATV registrations scheduled to expire through May 31 have been extended until June 30, 2020.
Rangers and forest district staff are actively patrolling and will enforce regulations.
People who live in areas still under stay-at-home orders should not travel long distances for outdoor recreation, and instead should look for opportunities close to home. ATV riders are encouraged to use the trail system closest to their home and to keep riding opportunities on private recreation areas in mind as well.
To help avoid exposure to COVID-19 and protect others, and still enjoy the outdoors:
- Don’t recreate in groups – go with those under the same roof, and adhere to social distancing (stay 6 feet apart)
- Wear a mask if you will encounter other people
- Take hand sanitizer with you and use it regularly
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow
- If you are sick, stay home
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) invites the public to review information on the Pymatuning State Park Spillway Trail (Phase I) Project by May 8, 2020.
The project is intended to resurface the existing Spillway Trail from Fries Road past the Spillway Overlook to Hartstown Road near the Crooked Paddle. A new section of trail will then be constructed from Hartstown Road behind the Crooked Paddle and St. Phillip Church then eastward across Linesville Creek to S. Chestnut Street. The historic Messerall Truss is proposed for use as the crossing of Linesville Creek. More details on the proposed trail route and on Messerall Truss are available under the Resources heading.
Comments can be submitted here.
On April 2, 2020, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn reminded Pennsylvanians that being outdoors is good health care and self care, but recommendations for social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus still apply.
“During this time of significant changes to our daily routines it’s clear that our need for and appreciation of nature is greater than ever,” Dunn said. “Outdoor activities are a great idea to relieve stress and as immunity boosters, but they should not include exposure to high-touch surfaces or other groups of people — we need to spread out.”
Dunn noted the best advice to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to stay at home. Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, or running is allowed if social distancing is maintained.
Some tips for avoiding groups of people outdoors include:
- If you have a yard, spend time there outdoors every day.
- If possible, take a walk around your neighborhood with the people in your family, as long as you can stay six feet away from neighbors.
- If you decide to leave your neighborhood, plan for several alternate locations, so if you arrive at your first one and there are crowds, you can move on.
- Choose a less busy time of day, such as early morning.
- Find a local park or trail that offers enough space for social distancing. Pennsylvania has more than 6,000 local parks that are identified on an interactive map.
- Some municipalities have closed local parks to protect visitors and employees, so check the status of the park before you go. If the park is open, bathrooms and water fountains likely will not be, so plan ahead.
- There also are more than 12,000 miles of trails in Pennsylvania, most of which remain accessible during this period. Find a nearby trail at trails.dcnr.pa.gov.
State and local parks, state forests, and trails are seeing record numbers of visitors, with more anticipated as the weather turns warmer and fishing season begins.
From March 17 to 25, Presque Isle State Park in Erie saw an average 165 percent increase in visitation from the same dates last year.
State park and forest facilities such as restrooms, playgrounds, and all overnight accommodations are closed, and staff is limited. The public can access lands and trails.
Be respectful of natural places by practicing Leave No Trace ethics:
- Avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads – find a different spot.
- Use the bathroom before you visit.
- Bring a bag and carry out your trash.
- Take your trash home with you, as there is limited staff emptying trash cans.
- Clean up after pets and carry out the bags.
Pennsylvania has 121 state parks, and 20 forest districts.