COOKSBURG, Pa. – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn visited Cook Forest State Park on Wednesday for a dedication ceremony at the new park office and visitor center.
“I am pleased to be here today celebrating this new building and the opportunities it will provide visitors at one of our special parks,” Dunn said. “We are happy to have this new home for our staff to continue doing great work at that park. We look forward to seeing the impact of the enhanced visitor experience this new building will provide through improved amenities and educational opportunities.”
The 4,000-square building center includes office space for 12 employees, a 700-square foot classroom and meeting space, and public restrooms that are available at all hours throughout the year. There is also exhibit space in the office, which is in the design phase and will completed in the near future.
The 8,500-acre Cook Forest State Park and 3,136-acre Clarion River Lands lie in scenic northwestern Pennsylvania. Known for its stands of old-growth forest, the park’s Forest Cathedral of towering white pines and hemlocks is a National Natural Landmark. A scenic 13-mile stretch of the Clarion River flows through Cook Forest State Park and is popular for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing.
“This park is a special place and having this new park office and visitor center will provide new opportunities to educate and improve the visitor experience,” Cook Forest Park Manager Ryan Borcz said. “My staff and I look forward to serving the public better with our new office, as well as through planned improvements on the horizon.”
Other recent improvements to the park include $2 million in roadway funding for Cook Forest and Clear Creek state parks and $140,000 in bridges to support trails. Other plans include expanding parking lots to accommodate growing visitor needs and to install an EV charging station near the new office.
An additional $800,000 is needed to demolish the old park office to build a guest comfort station. The old office had been in use for more than 40 years and was severely damaged during a 2014 flood.
Dunn also 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 an 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 multibillion-dollar industry that directly supports 150,000 jobs. For every dollar invested in state parks, $12.41 returns to the commonwealth. DCNR manages 121 state parks, 2.2 million acres of state forest lands, and is tasked with conserving and sustaining Pennsylvania’s natural resources for present and future generations’ use and enjoyment.
Cook Forest and Clear Creek state parks are located within the Pennsylvania WildsOpens In A New Window, which includes 2.1 million acres of public lands, 29 state parks, eight state forests and the Allegheny National Forest. Cook Forest is a signature destination within the 13-county PA Wild region.
(Photos courtesy DCNR)