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A look at Beltzville overcrowding

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    Max Olsen, who is part of a team studying overcrowding at Beltzville State Park, speaks with attendees at a forum held Thursday night. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

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    A number of state and federal agencies were on hand for a forum to discuss overcrowding at Beltzville State Park. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS

Published January 18. 2019 11:57AM

State and federal agencies were on hand at Towamensing Fire Company Thursday to hear residents’ ideas about how to improve Beltzville State Park.

Researchers from Penn State University’s Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management department are working with a consultant to study the use and occupancy of the park.

This summer they will be working on the ground and in the air — taking aerial photos — to document how many people use the park, especially on holiday weekends.

“We’re doing aerial photos, we’re doing traffic counts, aerial photo counts and surveys with visitors, trying to correlate those things,” said Allen Graefe, the professor who is heading the project.

Findings will be presented later this year.

Researchers were at the park during Labor Day weekend. There was not much overcrowding, but it also rained that weekend.

“All the peak holidays are going to be included. I think the peak is going to be Fourth of July — there’s a lot of weather dependence also,” Graefe said.

Alma Holmes, the park manager at Beltzville, said she has seen the study taking place and does what she can to accommodate them. Holmes said that Beltzville is not the only park that has to deal with overcrowding, so this research could help other parks as well.

She said that there is a lot of interest how to address the overcrowding, especially from local residents.

“They love the park. Everybody loves the state parks. It’s a good thing,” Holmes said.

Residents shared their thoughts with the gathered officials.

Jerry Villa said the park becomes inundated with visitors from out of state around the holiday weekends. He said he’s seen cars lined up on Route 209 because there isn’t enough room to park at the lake.

“It’s just getting overwhelming. Holidays are worse, but it’s just during the summer. The hotter it is, the worse it is,” he said.

Steve Molo, who lives near the park, said he caught fish in the lake for many years, but after a number of incidents, including seeing people changing their children’s diapers and leaving them on the beach, he doesn’t enjoy it anymore.

“I’m thinking about not even fishing there anymore. And I got a record catfish out of there,” he said.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which oversees the state’s parks, maintains that they are prohibited by state law from charging a fee. Some parks with pools charge fees, but officials said that is because they are third-party concessionaires.

State Rep. Doyle Heffley says he would support a fee to alleviate some of the overcrowding on holiday weekends. But he said that the residents he spoke to weren’t unanimous about it. Overall, he was pleased with the dialogue.

“I heard people who said charge a fee, I heard people who said don’t charge a fee because they’ll park in front of my house, I heard from people that said lock the gate, I heard people say let them in,” Heffley said.

Heffley said he’s happy that there is a study group working on the problem.

“I’m anxious to see what they come up with,” he said.

While Beltzville Dam is a federal project, Beltzville State Park is managed by DCNR, so it had a heavy presence at Thursday’s meeting. Matt Azeles said DCNR is trying to deal with the overcrowding on its own, outside of the study.

“We’re trying to resolve some of the issues that happen occasionally at the park because of the number of people who want to use the park, which is a good problem to have,” Azeles said.

Apparently Beltzville Lake, right here in beautiful Carbon County Pennsylvania, is the only place on earth where there is overcrowding at a taxpayer funded recreational park. The world waits for our state and local officials to craft a solution so that they too may solve a similar problem....if there is ever a need at their park.

But in the mean time, more study is needed to confirm what is obvious to everyone who cares to take a look.
This lake was built for flood control and recreation back in the 60's. If the government wasn't prepared (enough park employees and recreation area to satisfy the hordes to come) then the recreation part should not have been built. And today the park is overcrowded on holiday weekends. Not enough garbage receptacles in the areas set aside for recreation and none in the areas where many people go (the various hiking area parking lots and feeder streams they tend to find over the years), and not enough park employees to monitor the park or empty the trash receptacles. If you can't handle the visitors by increasing the management requirements of the park (including not only handling increased trash generation but the means to deal with it and additional parking and beach area) then limiting the number of visitors is about the only answer. Presently there is minimal or no ticket and tow when the gates are closed and the cars are parked seemingly for miles on the public access roads. There are 'No Parking' signs along the roads. Why no 'Vehicles Will Be Towed At Owner Expense' signs on the same posts? Park a few tow trucks in the problem areas on holiday weekends. Then do what has to be done....ticket and tow! I doubt if charging a fee is a good idea.....concerned that it will just result in people moving around the lake to coves and hiking areas, resulting in garbage around the entire lake with no receptacles presently in place...and the safety risk of no life guards in these areas. To continue to allow visitors to park outside and enter the park after the gates are closed is the main contributor to the problem. If the powers that be aren't prepared to eliminate that problem, then sadly the present overcrowding issues will continue. This isn't rocket science, just common sense.
Kick the can as usual. Once again no leadership or backbone from the state workers. If the water system is designed for x, the parking is designed for y, and the wastewater is designed by z, why don't they adhere to THEIR own rules? Why does DEP let them get away with obvious permit violations? This administration is incapable of solving a problem. So lame.
"We’re trying to resolve some of the issues that happen occasionally at the park because of the number of people who want to use the park, which is a good problem to have,” Azeles said. ???? " YOU use the park, or live by the park, and see if it a good problem to have. We obviously need new leadership at DCNR.

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