Saturday, June 3, 2023

Penns Valley bridge highlights infrastructure needs

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COBURN — A small pedestrian bridge crossing over Penns Creek near the Coburn Tunnel has seen better days. Built in 1880, the bridge hasn’t seen much repair since 1970, and is now stripped down to the point where unattached planks are resting on rotting wooden railroad ties. Still, it is a vital passage for anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to gain access to storied fly-fishing waters.

The cost to repair the bridge will be $548,445.

On June 9, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Deputy Secretary John Norbeck visited the bridge in Bald Eagle State Forest to highlight the need to refurbish the structure and call attention to how the use of federal recovery funds could address outdated facilities and public safety preparedness across the state.

“Most Pennsylvanians who enjoy hunting and fishing take advantage of those activities on public lands,” Norbeck said. “Maintaining critical infrastructure is essential to providing safe recreation opportunities to our visitors, and the use of recovery funds are critical in addressing infrastructure needs of our state forests and parks throughout the commonwealth.”

Norbeck noted some of the best fishing to be found anywhere in the state can be found on state forestlands, as they have some of the most pristine waters in the commonwealth that support abundant aquatic life. Hunting is permitted on virtually all of DCNR’s more than 2.2 million acres of state forestland.

“State forests and state parks are ribboned with wild trout streams, annually welcome anglers to hundreds of miles of stocked trout waters, are home to lakes with some of the premier warmwater fisheries in the commonwealth, and provide access to fantastic boating opportunities,” said Tim Schaeffer, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) executive director. “Across Pennsylvania, we work with our partners at DCNR to maintain and improve fish habitat, educate anglers and boaters, and promote public safety on these waters.”

Bald Eagle State Forest includes 194,602 acres in six counties. It spans the high, sharp ridges of central Pennsylvania and features miles of pristine mountain streams and numerous tracts of oldgrowth forest.

Other needs in the Bald Eagle State Forest include a new building for the wood shop and snow grooming equipment, removal of the Stony Run Dam and road and trail improvements.

Norbeck noted Gov. Tom Wolf’s $1.7 billion plan to help Pennsylvania recover from the COVID-19 pandemic includes designating $450 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars for conservation, recreation and preservation.

DCNR has a documented need of more than $1.4 billion for infrastructure repairs and improvements. Issues such as addressing wear and tear, extreme weather and climate change impacts, and a high demand for outdoor recreation require investments, which also allow incorporation of sustainable design and energy efficiency.

Pennsylvania made its last major injection of funding for conservation and outdoor recreation in 2005 with the Growing Greener II initiative, which funded hundreds of trail projects, conserved thousands of acres of threatened and open space and helped with hundreds of water projects to reduce pollution and flooding.

Statewide, outdoor recreation is a multibillion-dollar industry that directly supports 150,000 jobs.