Vitali warns that bill to foster commercial development in state parks is being fast-tracked in Harrisburg
HARRISBURG, June 22 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, expressed concern today that a bill promoting commercial development like amusement parks and office buildings in state parks is being fast-tracked without public input.
Vitali, Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, noted that H.B. 2013 was voted out of the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee today and is scheduled for a House vote Thursday.
Specifically, the bill would create a “Public-Private State Park Partnership Board” comprised primarily of political appointees who would be charged with soliciting, evaluating and approving private development on state park land. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would also have to approve the projects.
“Passage of this bill would lead to improper development on state lands without any public input,” Vitali said.
The bill also requires DCNR to fund the activities of the board, which would drain its already limited resources.
Projects that would be considered in addition to amusement parks and office buildings include hotels, inns, restaurants, water parks, sports facilities and golf courses, Vitali said.
“State parks were created to preserve areas of the commonwealth with unique scenic, historic or geological characteristics,” Vitali said. “These types of developments are inconsistent with the mission of state parks.”
He added that the bill is unnecessary because the DCNR already has the authority to approve development is state parks and, in fact, over 130 facilities already exist in those parks.
While the bill was voted out of the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee, Vitali believes it should have been considered instead by the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee because it has jurisdiction over the DCNR.
“This bill is being fast-tracked without public hearings during the hectic days leading up to the completion of the state budget,” Vitali said. “Opinion polls have consistently shown that Pennsylvania residents oppose development in state parks, so this bill should be stopped.”