Keystone Fund – Talking Points

CUTS TO KEYSTONE

Governor Corbett’s proposed 2012-13 budget PERMANENTLY ELIMINATES ALL CONSERVATION, PARK and RECREATION FUNDING from the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund.

  • The Governor’s proposed budget projected a $719 million deficit for this year.  Stronger than expected revenues for the state in February and March, are now dropping this projection by $200 million.
  • This is the largest proposed cut to conservation funding in Pennsylvania’s history.
  • This means a $30M loss for conservation in 2012-13 and this amount (or more) every year after.
  • If Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget is approved, it will mean record cuts, a total of $1.8 billion, to environmental funding in the last decade. Gov. Rendell’s share of these cuts/diversions is $1.4 billion. Gov. Corbett’s share is $376.5 million, so far.
  • Keystone is the only dedicated state fund that provides a guaranteed allocation to community recreation, park and conservation projects. With DCNR having undergone a decade of operational cuts, an elimination of Keystone funding would put internal Departmental wishes on a collision course with community needs.
  • Keystone funding for libraries and historic preservation would remain intact. Only conservation, park and recreation dollars are eliminated. Ironically the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund would not fund recreation, parks and conservation.
  • Keystone has survived previous budgetary cut proposals before, thanks to conservation and recreation advocates, but this is the first ever proposal to zero out the Fund.

BACKGROUND

  • The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund (Key ’93) was established in 1993 with overwhelming bi-partisan support in a voter referendum and legislative act (48-0 in the PA Senate and a 196-3 in the House).The Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund is Pennsylvania’s only funding source that directs money specifically to community park and recreation grants and land trust grants.
  • The Keystone Fund primarily supports capital projects with few funds going to administration or planning.
  • In 2011-12, Keystone supported $9.5M in community parks and recreation projects, $3.8M in land trust projects and $11.4M in state park and forest projects.
  • No state funding program has had a more lasting impact on local communities than the Keystone Fund, which has supported the development and rehabilitation of thousands of community parks, the creation of hundreds of miles of recreational trails, and the protection tens of thousands of acres of open space.
  • The Keystone Fund helps communities in every county and legislative district.  (Download a complete list of projects.)
  • Each dollar of Keystone Fund investment in communities leverages on average $2.28 in private and local investments.
  • A fair share of Keystone funds are given to small and rural communities so they are not forced to compete for funds with larger communities and cities and small communities are given more flexibility for project implementation.
  • Since the Keystone Fund relies solely on the Realty Transfer Tax, the amount of Keystone funds available each year is dependent upon the number of real estate transactions and real estate values each year. As established by Act 50 of 1993, the Keystone Fund is funded by the dedication of 15% of the Realty Transfer Tax.
  • DCNR receives 65% of the Keystone Fund for the following purposes:
    • 30% for state parks and forest upgrades (up to 10% of this portion can be used for rails to trails projects and up to 10% can be used for river protection and conservation projects
    • 25% for grants for local recreation projects.
    • At least 10% of this is provided for land trusts.
  • Demand is high. 99 projects totaling $21.3M went unfunded last year.

CONSERVATION EFFORTS

  • The Keystone Fund has supported the conservation of  approximately 120,000 acres of green space for county and municipal parks, greenways, wildlife habitat and other open space uses.
  • The Keystone Fund helps ensure our most special places are protected for our enjoyment today and far into the future. The Keystone Fund helps ensure that our children’s children and their descendants will grow up enjoying the same open lands that we so often take for granted.
  • In just the latest round, 19 conservation acquisition projects totaling over 7,800 acres and $12.1M in grant requests, went unfunded.

 RECREATION EFFORTS

  • According to DCNR’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, 72% of Pennsylvania residents are active outdoor recreationists and participate frequently in a wide variety of activities on both public and private lands.
  • Despite the demand for outdoor recreation opportunities and the benefits they bring to individuals and communities, such amenities can be too costly for local governments.
  • Keystone funding provides communities with the opportunity to provide residents with much needed access to nature and the outdoors and help to develop recreational resources that add real value to the community.
  • With the support of Keystone funding, DCNR has leveraged federal funding    to lead the nation in the development of quality trails. Keystone has funded 850 trail projects.
  • The Keystone fund has supported 2,600 community park development projects, including ballfields, playgrounds, pools, picnic areas and recreation centers.
  • Getting Pennsylvanians outdoors for healthy living is the main theme of DCNR’s 2011 Pennsylvania’s Outdoor Recreation Plan, which highlights local parks and trails as one of the best methods for reaching the plan’s goals. Keystone funding makes it possible for communities to provide safe outdoor  recreational opportunities to their residents.
  • According to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the Keystone Fund is the main reason Pennsylvania can proudly claim to have more open rail-trails than any state in the country.
  • In the latest round of Keystone funding, 71 recreation-related projects, including trail projects, totaling $8.8M went unfunded.
  • Trails increase the value of nearby properties, boost spending at local businesses, make communities more attractive places to live, influence business location and relocation decisions, reduce medical costs by encouraging exercise and other healthy outdoor activities, provide low or no-cost recreation to families, increase tax revenues in the communities in which they are located and can revitalize depressed areas.

STATE PARKS/STATE FORESTS

  • The Keystone Fund has supported state park and forest improvements including the construction and rehabilitation of restrooms, parking lots, roads, bridges, visitor centers, water fountains, sewage treatment and other facilities.
  • In 2008, Pennsylvania’s state parks alone hosted 33.6 million visitors who spent $738 million on their trips.
  • DCNR has relied on the Keystone Fund to support conservation efforts and infrastructure improvements that protect the natural resources of the Commonwealth and provide a safe and healthy setting for public recreation. In the last three years, DCNR has spent $29.1M of Keystone funding on these efforts.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

  • The Keystone Fund is primarily a capital projects program with few funds going towards administration or planning. Keystone projects create jobs and keep Pennsylvanians working.
  • Keystone’s investments in turn generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity, ranging from recreational purchases and wages to in- creased values of properties. (see Return on the Environment, a 2010 report by GreenSpace Alliance and Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission)
  • Keystone funded projects rely on Pennsylvania industries and businesses for successful implementation. _These businesses include playground manufacturers and suppliers, engineers, landscape architects, power equipment companies, pool equipment and supply companies, and athletic equipment suppliers.
  • Outdoor recreation accounts for approximately $1.3 billion in spending in Pennsylvania, and brings day and night visitors to local communities.
  • Open space provides countless benefits that are often taken for granted. In the southeast alone, open space saves taxpayers $98.6 million a year through natural water filtration, flood mitigation and air pollution. The Keystone Fund has already protected tens of thousands of acres. (see Return on the Environment, a 2010 report by GreenSpace Alliance and Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission).
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