HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) – Pennsylvania is spending $ 45 million building new state parks at the Tunkhannock Nature Reserve, on Big Elk Creek in a suburb of Philadelphia, and along the Susquehanna River near Wrightsville, officials were due to announce on Tuesday.

In addition to the 121 state park system, the existing nearly 700 acres of Vosburg Neck Nature Reserve in Wyoming, 1,700 acres in Chester County, and approximately 1,100 acres in York County.

The expansion was financed from the state budget adopted in July. These are the first new state parks in Pennsylvania since 2005, not including Washington Crossing in Bucks County, which was transferred from the state’s History and Museum Commission.

The Vosburg Neck Estate, known as Howland Preserve and owned by the North Branch Land Trust, is surrounded by an oxbow lake on the Susquehanna River and has an extensive trail system.

In Chester County, the new park will span 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of Big Elk Creek, which flows into Chesapeake Bay on the Elk River. Officials say the stream has long been used by indigenous peoples and has been an area of ​​considerable activity for the underground railroad.

“There will be many stories, many stories to be told,” said Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary of conservation and natural resources. “And part of the planning of the park in this is going to be what’s the best way for us to do this?”

York Park, located a few miles from the home of Governor Tom Wolf in Mount Wolf, is adjacent to large stretches of the Lancaster Conservancy, the former wizard ranch of the Scout Camp and Hellam Hills Nature Reserve.

Dunn said the state recently bought York County property, assembled Chester County land for more than a decade, and is in final negotiations for the Wyoming County circuit.

“This is a lifetime opportunity to be able to serve society in the way society requires of us,” said Dunn. “People came out in large numbers during the pandemic and reaffirmed their interest in the parks.”

York’s park, with a working name of Susquehanna Riverlands, costs $ 20 million in land purchase and development costs, Elk Creek $ 13 million, and Vosburg $ 12 million. Their final names have not been determined, and the parks are expected to be fully operational by the end of 2026.

The money in this year’s budget is the result of an unexpected profit from the lease of gas wells on land in the state forests, Dunn said. New state funding is also helping to create a park where people can use motor vehicles in Schuylkill County, south of Hazleton, and to preserve a large collection of state geological core samples.

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