Beltzville looks at overcrowding
On busy summer weekends, the crowds at Beltzville State Park can exceed the capacity of parking lots and park facilities.
In an effort to address the crowds, the agency which oversees state parks has commissioned a study.
Local elected officials met with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on Wednesday to discuss a proposed study of the “local community and visitor experience” at Beltzville.
DCNR has hired Toole Recreation Planning to conduct the study, which will include input from park visitors as well as local groups.
“The contractor, who has a background in doing these type of park and recreation plans, is going to be meeting with a number of stakeholders to try to tease out what they see as the challenges,” department spokeswoman Christina Novak said on Wednesday.
The first step in the process will be meeting with local groups to get their perspective on the challenges facing the park, and possible solutions.
Then, later this summer and possibly in the 2019 season, representatives from Penn State will conduct surveys in the park to get perspective from people who use it, whether they live in the area or not.
The contractor will analyze and report that data, and what happens next is still unknown.
“At that point, we would need to see where it takes us. I don’t think we have any preconceived notions about what the solutions are at this point,” Novak said.
Among state parks, Beltzville is not alone in attracting large crowds. Parks in the southeast part of the state, closer to larger population centers, also see big crowds on summer weekends, Novak said.
Another popular park is Cherry Springs, which is known for stargazing. All of Pennsylvania’s state parks are open to the public, and DCNR does not charge entrance fees.
“All of our parks are open to anyone, we don’t have entrances or entrance fees. They’re very democratic in that sense,” Novak said.
Local residents have expressed the need for an admission fee to address the large crowds at Beltzville on summer weekends — especially around Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.
State Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, said he has proposed a fee to use the park several times. But he said that is just one of a variety of outcomes that could come out of the study.
“As they move forward there are going to be a lot of suggestions that come out of it,” Heffley said.
Heffley suggested the researchers meet with organizations like the Friends of Beltzville and Pohopoco Rod and Gun Club.
Heffley said anyone who wants to have input on the process can contact one of his local offices.
“We want to make sure the voices of local residents here in Carbon County are going to be heard in this process,” Heffley said.
Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne/Carbon, praised the DCNR for looking into improving the experience in the park.
“Beltzville State Park is a recreational hub for the people of Carbon County, and the DCNR led task force is focused squarely on preserving this regional asset as a safe place to enjoy the beauty of northeastern Pennsylvania,” Yudichak said.
There could also be some measures taken this summer to help alleviate overcrowding. DCNR is considering ideas like portable toilets and using additional staff from other parks in the area during crowded weekends at Beltzville.
“They are taking a proactive approach for this season, as the study goes forward,” Heffley said.