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NPS of Western PA hold State of the Parks Address

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Park rangers and community members came together to talk about the state of the five national parks in our area. 2017 showed big numbers and improvements to our parks, however rangers are looking forward to what's to come later this year.

The focus is on improving, restoring and growing the parks and their facilities. This includes a $500,000 renovation to the Alleghany Portage Railroad Museum and other improvements to historical sites in the region.

“Here at Johnstown Flood National Memorial we are looking to actually do a controlled burn on the lake bed," says Western Pennsylvania park superintendent Stephen Clark, “So visitors can look out the windows and envision what the lake once was, what Lake Conemaugh looked like.”

Another major project is the new Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 Memorial.

“2018 is going to be just an exciting year,” say Flight 93 ambassador Ron Reinbold.

“Our Tower of Voices is going to be completed and we hope to dedicate it on Sept. 9. That is going to be a tower 93 feet high and have 40 wind chimes in it,” said Reinbold.

In 2016, national parks in this area hit a milestone -- they hit over 1 million visitors and the count continues to climb.

Right here at Johnstown Flood we have roughly about 300,000 visitors a year, Flight 93 is about 4 or just under 400,000 and then Friendship Hill, the smallest of the five in visitation ... will still bring in about 40,000 people,” says Clark.

The national parks hire locally, with 30 percent being retired veterans. Clark says these parks are vital to our region but most importantly to their communities.

“We equate the national park contributes roughly $80 million into the economy here in the region,” says Clark.

“That’s 1 million people coming into the communities, purchasing gas. eating at restaurants and coming in and enjoying these great places," Clark said.

Officials and volunteers hold events like this each year to bring awareness to the treasures we have in our own backyard.

“We have five wonderful parks in this area,” says Reinbold.

“From my experience even at Flight 93 there are so many local people that have not come to Flight 93 and I would say that is the same for the other parks in the area," he said.

The parks department is hoping to develop a "friend of" program for each of the five parks. It will be a way for the community to donate to the parks, since you cannot donate directly to the National Parks Service. If you are interested you can contact the National Parks Service of Western Pennsylvania.

The third annual State of the Parks address will take place next year at Fort Necessity National Battlefield.

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