‘Good People’ Make the Difference

Patrick Starr, Executive VP

To protect and restore Pennsylvania’s cherished natural resources, PEC collaborates with public and private partners to increase our impact and the success of our programs. Good partners aren’t easy to come by. Since its inception in 1995, PA’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been a frequent collaborator not only because of mission alignment. It’s really about the people there who’ve made our relationship so productive.

Diane Kripas is one of those people. She’s been a tireless and creative partner until her last day in December, when she retired as a Division Chief for Planning within the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation. Although more of a “behind the scenes” player in the shadow of Secretaries and Deputies, she helped set the agenda for many of DCNR’s program initiatives over the years including the creation of the nationally award-winning State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

Image credit: Sherri Anderson

One of my early PEC career memories was assisting in creating a statewide map of proposed greenways and trails. I was still pretty new at PEC as the director of the GreenSpace Alliance of Southeastern PA, and found myself meeting with county planning directors from Chester to Lehigh Counties, Philadelphia to Berks collecting information for our collaborators at DCNR. It was really interesting; it opened my eyes to how networks of trails were envisioned, what natural and historic features —  like streams and rivers, ridgelines, old rail lines, and historic towpaths and canals – might support the creation of a trail or merit protection for conservation value. Of course, Diane was a driver of that effort.

Later in my career, I served as an adviser to several of the plans for statewide recreation facilities and conservation known as SCORP. This “bureaucratic” exercise is an every five year requirement that each state must satisfy to obtain Land and Water Conservation Funds from the federal government. Some states treat it as a perfunctory minimalist effort to qualify for funds. DCNR doesn’t because of Diane. In fact DCNR has won “best of” awards most recently for the 2016 Outdoor Recreation Plan that Diane crafted.

[Diane] has been a tireless and creative partner until her last day in December, when she retired as a Division Chief for Planning within the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.

Pennsylvania’s Outdoor Recreation Plan is based on research that is typically out-sourced about the recreational behaviors, attitudes, wants and needs. That work is supplemented by sophisticated GIS analysis of population and access to recreation and conservation resources. And there’s a stakeholder process that reaches well beyond the conservation community that DCNR convenes and that Diane helped craft.

Image credit: Sherri Anderson

To wrap up, Diane is just “good people.” She cared about what she did as a state employee servant of the people. She approached what could be to some a bureaucratic exercise with passion and dedication, and she actually got others excited about her work. She never lost track of the people aspect of her work and career, and she actively cultivated talent and promoted the profession of recreation facility development and management.

Brett Hollern, PEC’s Senior Program Manager for Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure, says it best: “Early in my professional life, I was hired under a DCNR Circuit Rider Grant which Diane oversaw, the mentoring I received from her was invaluable. I was lucky enough to continue to interact with Diane right up until her retirement.”

Diane changed Pennsylvania (and Pennsylvanians) for the better. Now she gets to reap some of the benefits of her great work. Kudos! Enjoy!