The latest effort to force Pennsylvania’s award-winning state parks to consider golf courses, water parks, hotels, conference centers and other private development was defeated Tuesday by Pennsylvania lawmakers.
The House defeated the measure by a vote of 123-77. Among the Lancaster County delegation, representatives John Lawrence, Michael Sturla, Steven Mentzer, Mindy Fee, Bryan Cutler and David Hickernell voted for the parks development bill and representatives Jim Cox, Keith Greiner, Mark Gillen, Brett Miller and David Zimmerman voted against it.
The initial bill by Republican Rep. Brian Ellis of Butler County would have taken away the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources decision-making over such development and replaced it with a new public-private state park partnership board.
A day before the vote, Ellis amended the bill to delete the board and give the agency a role in decisions.
But it wasn’t enough. As in previous attempts, a large backlash developed among conservation, environmental and park groups who say the state’s 121 state parks should remain for mostly passive recreation.
The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council called the bill a “frontal assault on Pennsylvania’s state park system, and the reasons that it has been successful.”
The groups said such uses should remain on private lands adjacent to state parks.
But Ellis had said Pennsylvania should “move into the 21st century” and allow more amenities favored by the public and commonplace in state parks in states surrounding Pennsylvania.
Such a move would drive more users to state parks and generate more income, he said.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf had voiced support for the plan.
The only state park in Lancaster County is Susquehannock State Park.
Note: This story has been corrected to show that Rep. Bryan Cutler voted in favor of the defeated bill.