Parks are vital resources for Pennsylvanians: they allow people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with the outdoors, while serving as educational and recreational hubs in communities across the state.
The economic impact of parks, recreation and open space in Pennsylvania is substantial. In 2013, local and regional parks created nearly $1.6 billion in economic activity and supported 12,480 jobs in PA. The total contribution of State Park visitor spending to the state economy was $1.145 billion in sales and 12,630 jobs. For every dollar invested in state parks, $12.41 of value added income is returned to Pennsylvania.
In the Legislature
In recent years, there have been legislative attempts to allow local government officials to sell off local parks for short-term gain or on a political whim. HB224 of 2012 HB 2224 would have radically reshaped Pennsylvania law and, in doing so, make it easy to sell many of our parklands for quick cash. It doesn’t matter that a park has been used and loved for decades or even centuries. The bill would have allowed a local municipality or county to – depending on the arcane details of how a park was established –undo the park (and all the work that went into creating it) in a single vote.
The legislation died thanks to the vigilance and dedicated action of conservation and recreation advocates.
In the Courts
When developers were legislatively unsuccessful to change the law to allow local officials to sell parkland for development, they filed a lawsuit to force the courts to allow the municipality to public land without public or judicial oversight.
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association filed an amicus curiae brief in Commonwealth Court on April 21, 2014 in defense of parkland and open space held by governments for the benefit of the public per the discussion at the March policy committee meeting and the authorization of PALTA’s board. The catalyst of the brief is the litigation regarding Kardon Park (Petition of the Borough of Downingtown).
On December 7, 2016 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Borough of Downington v. Friends of Kardon Park, a dispute which has lasted more than seven years. The issue at stake is whether Downington Borough can sell acres of parkland to developers, who would construct retail space and housing units on the site, without public or judicial oversight.
The implications of this case are critical for the future of Pennsylvania’s parks; if Downington is granted the right to sell its public parkland, countless other cash-strapped municipalities might follow suit. Recognizing the danger of this unprecedented threat to public open space, the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association filed an amicus curiae brief with the court.