Nock­amixon State Park needs $24M in re­pairs, new re­port says

The Morning Call - - STATE / REGION - By Mar­ion Cal­la­han

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.”

PHO­TOS BY RICK KINTZEL/THE MORN­ING CALL

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.

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