Every five years, states across the nation are required to develop a STATEWIDE COMPREHENSIVE OUTDOOR RECREATION PLAN, known as SCORP.
In many states, these plans are mere formalities, as they are required to receive federal dollars from the Land, Water, and Conservation Fund. Their plans are written and then brushed off five years later for an update.
But in Pennsylvania, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) takes the process seriously and has used the writing of the document as an opportunity to pull together stakeholders from throughout the state as well as peer agencies to lay out a road map for improving recreational access and promoting open space throughout the Commonwealth.
For the 2014-19 version of the SCORP, DCNR has created a separate document to focus on the importance of trails to the state. Titled the “Pennsylvania Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan,” this addendum to the larger SCORP brings into sharp focus the importance of trails and connectivity for citizens around the Commonwealth.
For example, currently 29 percent of Pennsylvanians live within one mile of a trail. The plan sets out a new goal of increasing that number to 39 percent by 2019, or five million citizens. This is an important goal, because numerous studies have shown how critical access to trails is to improving community health, economic opportunity, and individual wellness.
The strategic plan also tackles funding, one of the hardest aspects of how to build trails. By bringing the need to the forefront and establishing criteria for inclusion in the overarching greenway goals, trail groups now have a target to reach for in funding.
One of the critical steps is identifying the network gaps for trails and creating a top 10 list. Similar to the Transportation Improvement Program from PennDoT, this top 10 list identifies the priority funding projects across the Commonwealth. For PEC, this list is exciting as nine of the 10 gaps identified are currently being tackled by trail groups, coalitions, and community organizations that we have worked with closely. Specifically, the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, The Circuit, the East Coast Greenway, and the NEPA Trails forum are all projects that have gaps in their networks identified in this list.
The full SCORP can be viewed at paoutdoorrecplan.com and the Trails Strategy can be viewed here: http://www.paoutdoorrecplan.com/cs/groups/public/documents/document/dcnr_20030875.pdf