Nockamixon State Park needs $24M in repairs, new report says
A Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation report said years of underfunding and understaffing have left many state parks in disrepair and, in some cases, unsafe for recreation. The report calls for $24 million to repair Nockamixon State Park’s marina, sewer and water facilities, bridges, roads and more.
Decades of neglecting maintenance needs is taking its toll on Nockamixon.
Picnic benches are rotting. Bike trails are damaged by drainage problems and erosion. Hazardous conditions, namely fallen dead and dying ash trees, have closed the 18-hole disc golf course and a small children’s fishing pond at the park. And bathrooms?
“Some people won’t go into them,” said Marci Mowery, president of Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, as she stood next to one of the park’s pit latrines that even with the door closed left a lingering stench.
During a Thursday tour, Mowery told area lawmakers’ representatives, local business owners and park volunteers that Nockamixon State Park needs more than $24 million in maintenance work, and if left in disrepair will cost taxpayers more to fix and pose a public safety risk.
The price to fix Nockamixon park’s bridges, dams and wastewater facility may be higher than needs at other area state parks, but far below the nearby Delaware Canal State Park, which Mowery said is in need of $75 million in repairs. Thursday’s tour followed the release of a report by the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, an independent nonprofit parks advocacy group, detailing $1 billion in maintenance needs throughout state parks in Pennsylvania.
Standing in the park’s marina at Lake Nockamixon, Josh Swartley from the State Parks Regional Office pointed to the well house, which is its main water source.
“That’s more than 40 or 50 years old, and nothing has been done to it since it’s been built,” he said.
Though the number of visitors to the 5,286-acre park is 1.1 million annually and continues to increase, Mowery said state funding has not kept pace with the growth and the public’s interest in outside recreation.
Holding a penny and a dollar, Mowery tried to describe just how little the state parks get in funding, adding that the park’s funding source, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, gets just one half of one percent of the annual Pennsylvania state budget. Yet, she said the park, with its 1,450-acrelake and recreation offerings, pumps $17 million a year into the economy in visitor spending. Throughout the year, the park is open for swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, camping and recently paddle boarding and yoga on the lake.
Mowery said parks have to evolve to meet the recreation demands of the public: “Ten years ago paddle boarding wasn’t part of the conversation.”
She credited groups like Friends of Nockamixon State Park, which contributes money for certain repairs and works to improve recreation activities, visitor experience and habitat protection. But she said philanthropy can’t replace government investment.
Driving past orange signs posted to alert the pubic of the closure of the disc golf course and small fishing pond, she said the public stands to lose the most by the lack of sufficient investment.
During the tour, as she watched a mother holding a baby on her hip to share the view of the lake, Mowery expressed the importance of her fight for more funds: “This is her park, and we want to make sure it’s here when she’s able to experience it on her own.”
A sign warning pedestrians not to enter the disc golf course at Nockamixon State Park in Haycock Township. The emerald ash borer beetle has killed many trees in the park. Park officials gave a tour Thursday to show the infrastructure needs at the park, including major road repairs, bridgework, building renovation and rehabilitation, dam replacement and other improvements.
A decaying picnic bench sits in one of the areas of the park Thursday, September 5, 2019 at Nockamixon State Park in Haycock Township. The state has 30,000 picnic tables in its parks with a life expectancy five to six years for the tables.