Yet another state is threatened with loss of critical funding for parks, this time the state of Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Corbett (R) has proposed to permanently eliminate the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund in the FY 13 state budget. The Keystone Fund, in existence since 1994, is a dedicated state fund that would provide $30 million for local and statewide parks and recreation projects in FY 13. The fund derives its revenues from a small portion of the state real estate transfer tax and has invested more than $360 million since its inception in more than 3,000 local and statewide park, recreation, and conservation projects. This latest cut to conservation funding comes on the heels of recent cuts to the state’s Growing Greener Environmental Stewardship Fund and the state’s Agricultural Preservation Fund.
The impending elimination of the Keystone Fund has stunned parks and conservation advocates in Pennsylvania. The fund has been exceedingly popular with the public and has enjoyed broad bi-partisan legislative support up till now; but due to state budget cuts, is now very much at risk. Proponents, led by the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society, have been galvanized by the Governor’s unprecedented proposal to permanently eliminate the fund and have mounted an aggressive statewide effort to mobilize public opposition to this planned budget cut. Efforts have included statewide petitions, fact sheets, and outreach to media and citizens. Recent public opinion surveys have shown extraordinary levels of public support for public parks and recreation, but hardened ideological positions within the legislature will make this an uphill fight. Proponents accurately point out that elimination of this fund will result in a major increase of deferred maintenance projects in state parks and forests as well as significantly diminishing funds for local park, recreation, and open space conservation projects, including the loss of a more than 2-to-1 match for every state dollar invested.
For more information on the fight to save the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund, visit www.conservationadvocate.org/keystone-fund
Richard J. Dolesh is NRPA Vice President, Conservation & Parks