The Goddard Era
Immediately following World War II, three factors led to increased use of Pennsylvania state parks.
- People had more spare time. The United States switched from the six-day workweek to a five-day, 40-hour workweek.
- The economic boom from the war led to the purchase of automobiles, enabling more people to travel.
- Improved roads and the development of interstates made traveling easier.
This stable time for Pennsylvania state parks was about to change.
In 1955, Maurice K. Goddard was appointed director of the Department of Parks and Forests. There were 44 Pennsylvania state parks. Dr. Goddard proposed building a state park within 25 miles of every resident of Pennsylvania. The same year Governor Leader signed the Oil and Gas Lease Fund Act, which earmarked royalties from oil and gas taken from state-owned land to be spent on conservation development and land acquisition.
In 1957, Pennsylvania’s New State Parks: A Report to the General Assembly on Act 256 studied 175 potential state parks. The new parks were evaluated on water, location, topography, subsurface conditions, availability, and scenic and historical significance.
Acquisition of the some of the new state parks began immediately. Goddard reorganized the Bureau of State Parks into four regions, an organization that still exists. Visitation of state pate parks went from eight million visitors in 1955 to 24 million visitors by 1961.
Needing money to buy land for parks, the legislature introduced Project 70, to raise money for forestry, conservation, parks, improved water quality and pollution control. This bond issue had to go through the Senate, the House of Representatives and the voters. Goddard traveled around the state selling the project.
“Acquiring parks and open spaces for parks in and around our urban centers must be regarded as a ‘now or never’ proposition. . .Such a program simply cannot be postponed until sometime in the remote and hazy future, because land costs in these areas, high as they are now, will be too high for government purchase in another ten years.” - M. K. Goddard
Project 70 was approved in 1963.
Needing money to improve the lands purchased by Project 70, the legislature created Project 500. The money was earmarked for reclaiming abandoned mines, for state parks and forests, for improving and building sewage plants, and for local and county parks. This bond issue passed in 1968.
In 1972, Tropical Storm Agnes pounded Pennsylvania. The storm damaged 63 of 92 parks and 33 parks closed temporarily. Pennsylvania state parks suffered $63 million in damage.
In 1976, in a ceremony with President Gerald Ford, Pennsylvania transferred Independence Mall State Park and Valley Forge State Park to the National Park Service.
In 1979, Goddard retired after 24 years of service under five governors. He added 45 state parks and 130,000 acres of land.
The modern era began with dark times but has a bright future.
Cupper, Dan. Our Priceless Heritage, Pennsylvania State Parks, 1893-1993 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Department of Environmental Resources, Bureau of State Parks, 1993.
Forrey, William C. History of Pennsylvania's State Parks Bureau of State Parks, 1984.