First Girl Frances Wolf speaks about Pennsylvania tourism and the rise in out of doors actions throughout COVID-19
First Lady Frances Wolf had a virtual chat on Facebook about how the tourism and outdoor industries have impacted during COVID-19. This was the fifth conversation in a row, titled “The Bigger Picture,” an extension of One Lens: Sharing Our Common Views that looks at the various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and connects this extraordinary moment with the wider community .
The full conversation can be found on the One Lens Facebook page.
“In the past year, like so many Pennsylvanians, I have experienced a renewed appreciation for the outdoors and natural beauty of our state,” said First Lady Wolf. “Our parks, trails, and riverside have become sanctuaries for so many of us to clear our minds and safely spend time with our loved ones. I hope we will continue to use these spaces beyond the pandemic to celebrate these parts of our community. “
First Lady Wolf was joined by a group of tourism and outdoor professionals including Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in Pennsylvania; Carrie Lepore, Assistant Secretary for Marketing, Tourism and Film for the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED); James Hamill, Pocono Mountains Public Relations Director and Regional Ambassador for One Lens Northeast; and Matt Galluzzo, President and CEO of Riverlife and Southeast Regional Ambassador. They all shed light on how Pennsylvanians used the outdoors, how the tourism industry adapted during the pandemic, and how residents can continue to use these spaces safely.
Secretary Dunn opened the conversation by highlighting the increase in outdoor activities that DCNR continues to see across the state. “With their social lives changed and travel plans canceled, millions of Pennsylvanians are venturing out into the great outdoors to find much-needed opportunities to exercise, reduce stress, and be with loved ones while staying safe and socially aloof,” said Secretary Dunn. “We are fortunate that our Commonwealth has so many beautiful natural places that are free and open to all. Today, more than ever, they are crucial for our wellbeing. “
Pennsylvania is home to 121 state parks, 2.2 million acres of state woodland, 83,000 miles of rivers and streams, and over 11,000 miles of hiking trails. Aptly named Penn’s Woods, sixty percent of the Commonwealth is tree-covered.
Pennsylvania State Park’s visitor numbers rose from 37 million in 2019 to nearly 47 million in 2020 – an increase of 27 percent, according to the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. In a recent survey by the agency, 4 out of 5 Pennsylvanians who visited parks and trails during the pandemic believe that time outdoors is essential to their physical and mental health.
Assistant Secretary Lepore added, “Penn’s Woods, our more than great outdoors, has always been one of our greatest assets and greatest tourist draws. With the outbreak of the pandemic, we have seen countless Pennsylvanians and visitors rediscover our majestic landscape as millions more have ventured onto trails and into parks for the first time. The timing and mission of One Lens are ideal as taking and sharing a picture while exploring the outdoors makes the perfect postcard. This is the best invitation for others to pursue their fortune in Pennsylvania and find it for themselves. “
Hamill commented on how the tourism industry supported the rise in outdoor activities in the Northeast. “Over the past year, people have reconnected with their natural surroundings, whether it’s public parks or ski resorts, lakes and rivers that offer a way to distance oneself and stay active with family,” said Hamill. “That gave hope to many of us in these difficult times and reaffirmed our appreciation for everything we have at Poconos and the rest of Penn’s Woods. And while the tourism industry is facing difficulties, businesses have adapted to new ways of delivering unforgettable experiences to guests and locals alike. “
Matt Galluzzo, whose charitable mission is in part to “create, activate, and celebrate Pittsburgh’s riverside,” described the role of these outdoor spaces in the Southwest. “Every aspect of our work over the past year has been shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been difficult in many ways for so many people,” said Galluzzo. “We saw a real appreciation and demand for public open spaces on the riverbank among the people in our region. During the toughest times of the past year, we’ve seen record numbers of people turning to the waterfront walks, parks, and watercraft for wellness and recreation. Path and open space use increased by 62% during the pandemic, and four in five US adults believe that visiting open space is essential to their mental health and physical wellbeing. It has increased the importance of our work – public outdoor spaces are essential. The One Lens Photo Exhibition is a powerful way to tell those kind of stories and more. “
One Lens: Sharing Our Common Views is a nationwide virtual photo and storytelling exhibition organized by the First Lady’s Office in collaboration with PHMC, the PA Council on the Arts, the PA Tourism Office, and the Library of Accessible Media for Pennsylvanians. It celebrates the hard work and dedication of all Pennsylvanians as we continue our fight against COVID-19. The deadline for submitting photos is Monday, March 8, 2021, and submitting audio data via LAMP’s One Lens hotline at 215-683-3218 by Monday, March 15, 2021. The complete exhibition will be released on Friday, March 19, 2021. For more information about One Lens, visit the website.
For information on future virtual conversations for The Bigger Picture and other updates, please visit the One Lens Facebook and Instagram pages.