Today, Representative Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) came out in strong support for keeping the Keystone Parks, Recreation and Conservation Fund whole. It doesn’t get much better than that as Rep. Adolph is chair of the House Appropriations Committee and has a big say in what the final state budget will look like. He was joined at a press conference announcing his support on the capitol steps by Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery), a long time champion of land conservation and the Keystone Fund, and David Masur of PennEnvironment and Andy Loza of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association.
Governor Corbett proposed eliminating the Keystone Fund, which has its own dedicated funding stream – a percentage of the real estate transfer tax – that was approved by the voters in 1993. Since then this popular program has conserved thousands of acres of open space, funded trail and greenway projects, expanded and improved local parks and provided funding for maintenance and improvements at state parks. The Senate proposed restoring half the money and the House wants to keep the fund whole.
Rep. Adolph’s support for the Keystone Fund will be vital in the ongoing budget negotiations. His advocacy for the program makes it more likely that the fund will survive the process.
PennEnvironment collected thousands of postcards from visitors to state parks as part of its campaign to save the Keystone Fund. And while the fund is important to maintaining our state parks, they face a far more serious threat – gas drilling. It turns out that the Commonwealth does not own the mineral rights beneath 85 percent of our state parks. That means they have no legal way to keep drillers out of the 61 parks located over the Marcellus. A court ruling even removed the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ ability to impose surface use agreements on the drillers to provide extra protection for these special places.
So the Keystone Fund may be safe, but our state parks remain at risk. The General Assembly should provide extra protection for them by creating special environmental safeguards for drilling in state parks and imposing an extra, substantial impact fee for any drilling that deprives Pennsylvanians of the use of their parks.