Parks add funding as camping season amps up

For some, the camping season has already begun. Tents and trailers must be dusted off and many have already visited state parks and campgrounds across the state.

“The new season ahead is an exciting one for visitors to our state parks and state forests,” said Terry Brady, deputy press secretary of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Those who have come to enjoy the state park system and the many things offered to campers may find some improvements being made.

Governor Tom Corbett recently made a short-term funding commitment to state parks and forest systems called Enhance Penn’s Woods Initiative.

The two-year, $200 million investment has been set aside to maintain and improve both the parks and forests for those who use them.

Brady said “an always good thing is about to get much better,” thanks to the two-year plan.

The program will funnel cash into state park and forest infrastructure improvements and land purchases.

“Enhance Penn’s Woods will see projects undertaken that appeal to the biker and birder, camper and boater, hunter and angler,” Brady said.

This is the largest short-term investment made toward state parks and forests in history, Corbett said in a news release.

Residents in this area have a variety of parks nearby. Here are options at two of them:

Greenwood Furnace State Park

Greenwood Forest State Park, located in the mountains of northeastern Huntingdon County, will receive some funds from the new initiative and will use them for a new maintenance building.

This park has many amenities for overnight campers or those who come in just for a day.

Surrounded by thousands of acres of the Rothrock State Forest, Greenwood Furnace itself is about 423 acres, with a six-acre lake stocked with trout.

The campground is open and will extend its season into the late fall.

“We are extending the campground season into mid-November. We have a lot that camp for Penn State football season, it’s popular with (the fans) and we are trying to extend it for them,” park manager Michael Dinsmore said.

There are 51 sites inside Greenwood Furnance State Park, varying in use from RV, pull-behind trailer and tents. Dinsmore said most of them are wooded and not very open. There are 44 electric sites that accommodate most sizes of RVs and trailers. Tents are welcomed on most sites.

“We have walk-in tent sites that are a little more rustic,” Dinsmore said. All tent sites have a pad, fire ring, picnic table and a place to hang a lantern.

Two of the walk-ins are near Standing Stone Creek.

Thirty percent of the campground is pet friendly, and Dinsmore said they plan to add additional pet sites this year.

“There is a large historical culture element here due to it formerly be an iron furnace community,” he said, with remnants of those furnaces located in the park and one that is fully restored.

He notes that the Civilian Conservation Corps workers of the 1930s built many of the pavilions and other structures.

“It is a good sort of recreation jumping-off point. (It is) surrounded by state forest and is accessible to not just hiking but mountain biking. In the winter, it becomes a trail head for snowmobiling,” Dinsmore said.

The park is the site of competitive orienteering events, where participants have to go through a course using a map and compass. Dinsmore said there are navigation points throughout the park, which are sometimes part of park programs for the public to try.

Various programming is put on by the park naturalist throughout the year.

“He does programing through the year that focuses on the historical aspect, but it varies a bit. He collaborates with game commission, and Shavers Creek will sometimes come in,” Dinsmore said.

There are eight reserved picnicking areas; if not reserved, they are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

A concession area at the beach sells small camp items that may be needed along with ice, hot dogs and hamburgers.

“We have a Friends of Greenwood, a nonprofit that does the firewood,” Dinsmore said.

Numerous trails in the park connect directly into Rothrock State Forest, most popular are the Mid-State Trail and Cowanesque Gap where the Standing Stone Trail is.

Most of the park is open to hunting.

Penn-Rosevelt State Park is near Greenwood and maintained by park employees. According to DCNR’S website, the 41-acre park is in an isolated area of the Seven Mountains region known as the Stone Creek Kettle. While this Centre County park is small in size, it is surrounded by an 80,000-acre block of Rothrock State Forest. Penn-Roosevelt is a good base for those seeking low-density recreation on a vast expanse of public land.

“It is out in a geographic area in Stone Kettle Creek and has a small number of sites that are all tent sites. It does not accommodate campers and it’s a very quite area. It’s fairly quite and rustic,” Dinsmore said, adding that eight of the 18 sites are walk-ins.

Little Buffalo

State Park

Little Buffalo State Park is in Perry County, and campers will find 40 sites, most of which have water and electric hook-ups. All the sites in the campground at Little Buffalo State Park are pet friendly.

“This is the first year we have opened two of the camping cottages as pet friendly,” park manager Brett Fromm noted.

Fromm said water a hook-up is something not found in most state parks across the state.

“Our park is a little different than most state parks because it was once a private campground at one time,” Fromm said, and the water hook-ups are still maintained from that transfer.

Five camping cottages are available, along with one modern cabin. This modern cabin was once a private residence acquired by the park. Fromm said it sleeps 14 people and is very popular.

“We have some historical features like Blue Ball Tavern and a covered bridge and grist mill,” Fromm said.

The grist mill is operating and is a unique feature to the park. In October on weekends, tours are given to see how it all exactly works.

A wide variety of educational programs are offered at the park, Fromm said. The park naturalist holds everything from scavenger hunts, to tree ID, stream exploration, to kayak programs on the lake.

The swimming pool facility is a big draw to the park. According to DCNR, a state-of-the art swimming pool nearly a half-acre in size sits along Holman Lake. The pool varies in depth from one to five feet and has 17- and 11-foot waterslides and a “sprayground.” The pool has a capacity of 1,285 swimmers and has a ramp for people with disabilities. There is also a concession onsite that sells food.

“There is an a 88-acre lake, which is open to fishing and boating,” Fromm said.

Boating on the lake is limited to non-motorized or electric motors only. Boat rentals – for kayaks, rowboats, pedal boats and electric motors – are offered at a concession stand at the lake.

Fishing tackle is available for loan upon request, Fromm added.

There are a variety of hiking trails, about eight miles long, that traverse the park and into the state forest.

Another unique feature is the recreational hall that holds up to 200 people. Fromm said it is very popular for banquets, wedding receptions and reunions. Tables and chairs are available for inside use and it is rented often.

Under the Enhance PA funding, Little Buffalo State Park will receive a new shower house. Fromm said it’s in the beginning stages, but the location has been picked and will hopefully be finished in a year or two.