Environmental Funds & Investments
DCNR announced over $33 million in special fall round C2P2 grants for dozens of projects all over Pennsylvania. The special fall grant round focused on helping underserved communities and supporting an invigorated focus on the outdoor recreation sector, closing trail gaps, and planting trees along streams and in communities. The grants are funded from multiple sources with the largest being the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money appropriated for recreation and conservation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s 2022-23 budget.
Helping Underserved Communities
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced an investment of $19.4 million in 68 projects to help underserved and small communities and partnerships across the Commonwealth with recreation and conservation efforts.
“Having these federal dollars allowed DCNR to reduce the match required, making it possible for small and distressed communities to apply for the help needed to revitalize their boroughs and towns. Our regional advisors put in extra effort to assist,” Dunn said.
Applicants were encouraged to submit projects that advanced their local recreation and conservation vision and implemented priorities of the statewide outdoor recreation plan, such as constructing playgrounds, developing internal loop trails, and improving access for people of all abilities and backgrounds.
“Investing in the upkeep and expansion of our recreational areas improves the quality of life for people who live there, and it also helps support the network of businesses related to outdoor recreation and natural places that have a big impact on the state, local, and rural economies,” Pennsylvania Director of Outdoor Recreation Nathan Reigner said. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation adds $14 billion to the Pennsylvania economy. This activity creates 150,000 full-time jobs which earn Pennsylvanians $6.8 billion in wages and salaries. Pennsylvania has the sixth largest outdoor recreation economy in the country.
Local parks are as diverse as the populations they serve, but they all face similar challenges – access, connectivity, maintenance, staffing, and funding.
- Bedford County – Mann Township, $118,200 for improvements to Community Park play equipment, basketball court, walkways, and fencing;
- Blair County – Altoona, $375,000 for improvements to Garfield Park including loop trails, walkways, parking, and lighting;
- Philadelphia, $187,500 for the Tacony Boat Launch and living shoreline project;
- Schuylkill County – Tremont Borough, $276,000 for improvement to Tremont Borough park including new play equipment, a pavilion, and stormwater controls;
- Statewide – Pennsylvania Environmental Council, $250,000 to develop an Outdoor Recreation Ambassador Program;
- Statewide — $1.8 million to Heritage Areas for a variety of projects including continued development of PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor’s bicycle tourism program, construction of a boathouse for the historic 1912 electric tour boat of the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, and completion of a master plan for a Dark Sky Program in Cameron County within the Lumber Heritage Region;
- Union County – East Buffalo Township, $685,700 for acquisition of 79 acres for a new community park; and,
- Westmoreland County – Ligonier Township, $50,000 for a pool feasibility study and master plan for Ligonier Beach.
Riparian Buffers, Urban Tree Planting Projects, and Lawn-to-Meadow Conversions
DCNR Secretary Dunn announced an investment of $11.8 million for streamside forest buffers, converting lawns to meadows and trees, and planting trees in urban communities to help improve water quality and to make the Commonwealth more resilient to climate change.
“Federal ARPA funds are intended to help us grow our way to recovery from the pandemic through investments in economic revitalization and clean water,” Dunn said. “DCNR worked quickly with a special grant round this fall so that we could get this money on the ground helping Pennsylvania communities.”
Twenty grants are being awarded planting approximately 700 acres of streamside trees statewide, with several partners focusing on planting in the Susquehanna River watershed; 12 grants supporting the TreeVitalize program and similar community tree planting efforts; and projects to change lawns to meadows and trees for pollinators and water quality included in seven grants. Properly planted and maintained, streamside trees and shrubs filter the runoff of sediments and fertilizers that are applied to lawns and crops; control erosion; slow stormwater runoff; cool stream temperatures; and improve fish habitat. Converting lawn to a diverse array of native trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and warm season grasses helps keep soil and nutrients in place and offers food and cover for pollinators butterflies, and songbirds. Trees in urban settings promote health and social well-being by removing air pollution, reducing stress, and encouraging physical activity and community ties; help reduce urban temperatures; provide habitat and food for animals; and are valuable green infrastructure to manage stormwater.
- Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, $3 million, to support riparian buffer plantings and lawn conversions within the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
- Chesapeake Conservancy, $900,000, for efforts to delist agriculturally impaired streams by providing funding for roughly 60 acres of riparian forest buffers, establishment of recently planted buffers, and robust partner and landowner engagement;
- PA Association of Conservation Districts, $100,000, to develop and manage a mini-grant program supporting lawn conversion projects statewide;
- Willistown Conservation Trust, $260,000 grant to install a lawn conversion demonstration site and support a lawn conversion program for public and private landowners in its Chester County service area;
- Erie City, $335,000 to complete diverse projects in areas that lack green space and canopy cover, including multifunctional buffer plantings, lawn conversions, and tree plantings; and,
- Pottstown School District, Montgomery County, $440,000, to plant more than 500 trees on school district properties with a focus on areas in need of green space and tree canopy, Tree Tender trainings and planting events with students.
Visit the DCNR website for a complete list of grants by county.
Trail Gap Closure and ATV/Snowmobile Trail Projects
DCNR Secretary Dunn announced an investment of $3.2 million to help address priority trail gaps and support ATV/Snowmobile projects in the Commonwealth. The grants help the Commonwealth implement its vision of having a trail within 10 minutes of every Pennsylvanian by closing priority trail gaps.
“In addition to many other benefits, trails contribute to the vitality of our communities by making them places where people want to live and locate a business,” Dunn said. “They are a perfect use of the federal recovery funds intended to help our economy rebuild after the pandemic and we worked hard to get them on the ground quickly.”
Trail Gap Closure Projects
The seven trail grants totaling about $3 million being awarded include:
- Construction of 4.45 miles of new trail and rehabilitation of half a mile;
- Grants to Allentown, Hanover Township, and the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor that will complete a 2.75-mile connection of the D&L Trail, a priority trail gap through the Lehigh Valley;
- Construction of 1.5 miles of the Knox and Kane Trail and a “Four Seasons” trailhead in Forest County;
- Construction of 0.75 miles of the Chester Creek Trail in the City of Chester, Delaware County;
- Design for 0.7 miles of the Cobbs Creek Trail in Philadelphia; and,
- A study of the feasibility of a 2-mile extension to the Green River Trail in Greene County.
Investments from the ATV and Snowmobile restricted accounts generated from registration fees also are being made in three projects:
- Pennsylvania Snowmobile Statewide Association, $52,000 for a mini-grant program;
- Treasure Lake Property Owners Association, Clearfield County, $73,500, for a master plan for an ATV trailhead at Treasure Lake Cayman Landing campground; and,
- Ulysses Township, Potter County, $50,000 for the Old Route 6 ATV/Snowmobile bridge over Pine Creek.
Visit the DCNR website for a complete list of grants by county.
New Grant Rounds Opening
The 2023 grant round will open on January 17 and close April 5. The grant programs opening include– Community Recreation & Conservation Planning; Community & Watershed Forestry; Land Acquisition & Conservation; Motorized Trails; Non-Motorized Trails; Park Rehabilitation & Development; and State & Regional Partnerships.
The next ATV/Snowmobile grant round will open February 1 and close March 31.
Visit DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2) webpage for more information.
Pennsylvania announced a historic investment of $90 million for more than 330 projects across Pennsylvania that will create new recreational opportunities, conserve natural resources, and help revitalize local communities.
The $90 million grant round is the largest single investment in Pennsylvania recreation and conservation in agency history, surpassing the previous record of $70 million in 2021.
“Pennsylvania encompasses some of the most beautiful natural areas in the nation,” Governor Wolf said. “By investing in the upkeep and expansion of our recreational areas, we are not only improving the quality of life for citizens. We are making Pennsylvania an even better destination for visitors who will contribute to the economic health of communities all across the commonwealth.”
“The health and vitality of our communities is reflected in the quality of parks and trails, access to rivers, open spaces and outdoor recreation opportunities,” DCNR Secretary Dunn said at an event at Clark Nature Preserve in Pequea, Lancaster County. “This grant round is historic, as it is the largest amount we ever issued to help protect and enhance our natural and recreational amenities throughout Pennsylvania.”
Lancaster Conservancy is receiving a $318,000 grant for a one-mile accessible loop trail and handicapped accessible parking lot and trailhead at Clark Nature Preserve.
Sec. Dunn was joined today at the event by Lancaster Conservancy CEO Phil Wenger, and other state and local officials.
“The Clark Nature Preserve, jutting out on the Lower Susquehanna River, is a remarkable property with varied geography and unique geology including cold Wind Caves and the amazing viewing platform called House Rock,” Wenger said. “The Conservancy Board made a decision to build a new universal access trail on this site to improve access for all. We find many of our older and physically disabled visitors highly value the ability to access our meadows, forests and views, immersing themselves in the benefits nature provides. The trail will allow our Clark Nature Preserve to be accessible and welcoming to everyone.”
“Many of the projects being funded – improvements to local parks, trails, and river access – bring these amenities closer to home, requiring less driving and expense to experience,” Dunn said. “This $90 million investment will leverage nearly $125 million in local, county and private investments, giving every state dollar more power for the public good.”
Investments are being made in a variety of proposals, including: 43 trail projects; protecting nearly 7,207 acres of open space; 20 projects for rivers conservation; planting 214 acres of streamside forest buffers including 47 that are multifunctional with the possibility of producing a harvestable profit for the landowner; and 141 projects to develop or rehabilitate recreation, park and conservation areas and facilities.
Projects are funded throughout Pennsylvania, including:
- Rehabilitation and development of multi-purpose and basketball courts, inclusive play equipment, and walkways in Huidekoper Park, Meadville, Crawford County;
- Construction of 1.5 miles of the Ghost Town Trail to help complete a 32-mile loop rail trail in Indiana and Cambria counties;
- Acquisition of about 916 acres of the Camp Tuckahoe Boy Scout Camp in York and Cumberland counties;
- Water access will be improved in five locations in Allegheny, Cambria, Erie, and Fayette counties;
- Development of 32 loop trails and 15 pickleball courts;
- Support for the Friends of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park in Philadelphia to implement a pilot project center on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in nature and outdoor recreation; and
- About $300,000 that will support Southern Alleghenies and North Central PA planning commissions for mini-grant programs targeting high need rural areas.
The grants are administered by the DCNR Community Conservation Partnerships Program (C2P2). Funding comes from the Keystone Fund; the Environmental Stewardship Fund; the ATV/Snowmobile Fund generated through fees for licenses; and federal monies.
Visit the DCNR website for a complete list of grants by county (PDF).
Gov. Wolf also announced an unprecedented additional 2022 fall grant round, which was made possible in part from appropriated funds in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s 2022-23 budget. That same support also secured funding for the creation of three new state parks to be announced this fall.
“This special fall grant round was made possible thanks to the bipartisan investment in conservation and outdoor recreation we secured in the recent commonwealth budget,” Gov. Wolf said. “These additional funds will help us support even more local park, trail, water quality, and landscape projects across Pennsylvania.”
The C2P2 special fall grant opportunity will highlight helping underserved communities, closing trail gaps, supporting an invigorated focus on the outdoor recreation sector, and planting trees along streams and in communities. The deadline to submit applications for the fall grant round is October 27.
For the supplemental fall grant round there is a lower match requirement for municipalities with populations under 5,000 people. For these communities, match is only 20% of the grant amount with no cap on project size. This lower match requirement makes the fall funding round an ideal opportunity for smaller municipalities to apply for grants.
The special fall funding round is also an ideal time to apply for tree planting, lawn conversion, and streamside buffer grants. The round includes more than $8 million in Keystone Tree Fund money and other funds to support watershed and community forestry practices.
For more information on the fall grant round or to apply, visit the DCNR Grants Customer Service Portal.
Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Program has won a competitive partnership grant of $7.85 million from the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to support climate-smart conservation on Pennsylvania farms, Agriculture Russell Redding said.
Pennsylvania’s $12.8 million investment in preserving farms will leverage these federal dollars for farms that implement and measure the impact of practices that address climate change.
“Climate change is presenting serious challenges to the farmers who feed us and feed our economy,” Secretary Redding said. “Pennsylvania has invested heavily in protecting farmland from development and making farming practices more sustainable and farms more resilient. We have been creative in multiplying those investments to have an even greater impact on our future food supply and economy. We’re grateful to the USDA for recognizing Pennsylvania’s efforts and we’re proud that our state is a national model of innovative conservation.”
Pennsylvania’s grant will fund projects to install climate-smart practices on preserved farms –- measures and practices targeted to meeting the specific challenges climate change is presenting on each farm. Funds will also support producers interested in transitioning to organic production. The PA Farm Bill-funded PA Preferred® Organic Program will provide assistance with organic certification of farms.
Project partners will use COMET-Farm to model the greenhouse gas reduction tied to project activities and Rodale Institute will help the department measure the impact of these practices. Clearwater Conservancy and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will provide additional support focused on forestland conservation.
The grant was one of 41 regional conservation projects totaling $197 million to match local funds. Farmland preservation funds serve as the matching contribution. Details of the application process for farmers are in development.
“These dollars will be a significant tool for our efforts to improve soil health on preserved farms and reduce the impact of climate change,” Bureau of Farmland Preservation Director Douglas Wolfgang said. “Regenerative farming practices capture and store carbon from the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of climate change. Our hope is that the project will provide additional conservation opportunities for preserved farm owners and multiply the good we are doing for Pennsylvania’s future.”
Pennsylvania’s longstanding partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service led to its first RCPP grant in 2018. That first $6.3 million grant funded projects to install conservation practices on preserved farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The second, in 2019-20, invested $10 million to enhance farmland preservation and natural resource protection in the Kittatinny Ridge region of Pennsylvania.
By selling their land’s development rights, landowners preserve their farms, protecting land from future residential, commercial or industrial development. Pennsylvania partners with county and sometimes local governments and non-profits to purchase development rights, ensuring a strong future for farming and food security. Farms that agree to additional conservation measures when the sell their development rights may leverage federal funds through the RCPP and through USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. These federal funds, in turn, allow the department to preserve farms on the waiting list in the same county and help ensure that farms are sustainable.
These new federal dollars will further multiply conservation investments in the 2022-23 state budget that invests $220 million total in the new Clean Streams Fund, including $154 million to fund the new Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program supporting farmers’ efforts to reduce water pollution and improve soil quality, and $22 million to increase funding for the existing Nutrient Management Fund, which supports technical assistance to farms to reduce run-off.
- Paved parking area with ADA spaces
- Picnic pavilion
- Benches, bike racks, and picnic tables
- Drinking water fountain
- Public restroom
- Chester County Commissioners
- Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape
- East Coventry Township Board of Supervisors
- Chester County Parks and Preservation Department
- Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area
Protected open spaces like parks and trails provide lots of value. They give us places to walk and enjoy the outdoors. They create homes for wildlife. They make communities more attractive places to live.
- $48 million in additional property tax revenue due to higher home values near protected land
- $160 million in direct economic impact through tourism spending and goods produced on protected land
- $31 million through environmental services like natural water filtration
- $219 million in annual outdoor recreation benefits
This week, the Environmental Stewardship Fund—known as Growing Greener—celebrates 20 years of protecting clean water, reducing flooding, conserving and restoring land, and improving parks and trails.
On December 15, 1999, Governor Ridge signed the bipartisan legislation that established the Environmental Stewardship Fund (ESF) to support projects to improve water quality, reduce flooding, preserve open space and farmland, restore damaged land, and enhance outdoor recreation.
In the 20 years since, ESF grants have improved the lives of millions of Pennsylvanians while revitalizing communities and boosting our state’s economy. As we celebrate this landmark, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there’s much more work to do.There are still more than 19,000 miles of rivers and streams unsafe for drinking, swimming, fishing, and boating.
State parks and forests require nearly $1 billion in necessary repairs.
More than 200,000 acres of abandoned mine lands and thousands of brownfield sites pollute our water and threaten human health and safety.
And the list goes on.
Please contact your state senators and representatives this week in honor of the anniversary, and:
- Explain the importance of the ESF to your community. (Find specific ESF projects here.)
- Let them know that with the huge problems facing Pennsylvania, and local projects in need of funding, a strong ESF is needed more than ever.
- Ask them to increase state environmental investments for 2020–2021, including boosting ESF.
Please call your state senator and representative and urge them to greatly boost the state’s investments in protecting water, conserving land, and improving communities (find your legislator here):
- The Governor calls for substantial conservation investments in his Restore PA proposal (which addresses a variety of infrastructure projects). Ask your legislators to support Restore PA’s conservation investments. Also, post on social media by tagging your legislators and using the hashtag #RestorePA. Here is a set of social media graphics highlighting the need for boosted investments in protecting water, conserving land, and improving communities.
- In addition, ask your legislators to leave the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund untouched in this year’s budget. Pennsylvania can’t afford to backslide in its community and conservation investments.
Read the Growing Greener Coalition’s letter to members of the General Assembly and Governor Wolf on this subject.
Summary of Restore PA’s Conservation and Environmental Components
Governor Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania proposal includes funding for:
- Green stormwater infrastructure that reduces flooding and keeps dangerous pollutants out of waterways (e.g., rain gardens, street trees, and bioswales).
- Stream and floodplain restoration projects that improve wildlife habitat while preventing erosion and downstream floods.
- Infrastructure that protects communities from rising floodwaters (e.g., dams, levees, and flood walls).
- Creative solutions to help municipalities move forward with pollution-reduction plans to meet stormwater mandates and protect homes and businesses from destructive flooding.
- Remediation of abandoned mines that scar the landscape and pollute waterways.
- Conservation of areas that supply drinking water for communities, reduce flooding by absorbing massive amounts of stormwater, and provide other benefits to communities.
- Preservation of farmland that provides the food we eat and is the backbone of rural economies.
- Crucial infrastructure in state parks and forests (e.g., roads, dams, and bridges), which host millions of visitors each year and support local economies.
- Trails and parks that help communities thrive.
- Cleanup of brownfields and blighted properties, which can transform from unused and dangerous spaces into hubs for community revitalization and economic growth.
- Removal of lead and other toxic contaminants (e.g., found in paint on old homes or water pipes) that threaten public health.
- Public transportation systems that increase mobility and access to opportunities while also reducing carbon emissions.
The Growing Greener Coalition sent the following letter to Governor Wolf and members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly on March 19, 2019. View the PDF here.
Pennsylvanians want to reduce destructive flooding, restore waterways to productive life, and protect our drinking water. We need to do this to protect public safety and health. We need to do this as a moral imperative and constitutional responsibility. And we need to do this because the investments made to restore and protect our waters produce long-term cost savings and economic returns that more than pay for the initial investments.
The organizations and people of the Growing Greener Coalition urge the General Assembly and Governor Wolf to greatly boost the state’s investments in reducing flooding, restoring waterways, protecting drinking water, and providing other conservation benefits:
- The Coalition reiterates that Pennsylvania can’t afford to backslide in its community and conservation investments. Every dollar flowing into the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund needs to be invested in projects that protect and restore Pennsylvania’s environmental assets, not diverted to pay for government operations.
- The Coalition applauds the Governor’s attention to conservation investment needs in his Restore Pennsylvania proposal and encourages legislators to work with the Administration to make these investments happen.
In building on past successes and boosting the state’s conservation investments, the General Assembly and Governor can achieve many lasting and diverse benefits for Pennsylvanians, including:
- Major reductions in property damage and loss of human life caused by flooding
- Progress for local governments in meeting MS4 requirements
- State progress in meeting mandatory Chesapeake Bay requirements
- Safer drinking water and lower water treatment costs
- More miles of streams restored for recreation and economic use
- Federal investments leveraged that otherwise would not come to Pennsylvania
- Boosts to the agricultural and outdoor recreation industries
- Restoring parks for communities across the Commonwealth
- And much more
The public’s enthusiasm for these investments continues to be overwhelming. For example, 75% of Republican voters, 82% of Democrats, and 87% of independents actually support spending more on conservation, even if it would mean taxing themselves more to do it. (See survey results at https://conservationtools.org/conservation-benefits/205.)
Thank you for your attention. For more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the people and organizations of the Coalition including:
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Harry Campbell, PA Executive Director
Conservation Voters of PA
Joshua McNeil, Executive Director
Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds
R. John Dawes, Executive Director
Lancaster Farmland Trust
Jeffrey Swinehart, Chief Operating Officer
Oliver P. Bass, President
PennFuture (Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future)
Jacquelyn Bonomo, President & CEO
Pennsylvania Environmental Council
John Walliser, Senior Vice President
Pennsylvania Land Trust Association
Andrew M. Loza, Executive Director