As the COVID-19 pandemic limited indoor gatherings and large outdoor events last year, people flocked to state parks for fun —and safe — things to do.
Next year, those parks will be open to even more visitors — of the four-legged variety.
Nearly 47 million people visited state parks in 2020, up more than 26 percent from the year before. Reservations for campsites and day use areas jumped by more than 40 percent.
But some newcomers were disappointed when they learned they couldn’t always bring their pets camping, said Terry Brady, press secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Most parks that offer camping have limited sites for furry friends. But in 2022, dogs, cats, turtles, birds and other domestic pets will be welcome at 130 new sites and cabins across six parks. Reservations for state parks open 11 months in advance.
“It’s like a double edged sword, we’re helping the people who want to go there with their pets and then we’re also alerting the people who have already booked,” Brady said.
New sites will allow pets at: Cook Forest, Clarion County; French Creek, Berks County; Poe Valley, Centre County; Prince Gallitzin State Park, Cambria County; Pymatuning, Crawford County; and R.B. Winter, Union County.
There are certain rules: animals can’t be left unattended in parks. Dogs must be leashed and are generally not allowed in swimming areas.
There are also restrictions on the types of pets allowed in the parks.
“We’ve had people bring goats and llamas and say ‘this is my pet.’ So, we draw the line at farm animals,” Brady said.
People bringing pets will be charged an extra $2-5 per night in cleaning and maintenance fees.
DCNR has been opening parks to pets since 2001. The 2022 expansion will bring the amount of pet-friendly sites to 2,556 out of a total 6,277 campsites at 55 of 56 parks.
This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.