Beltzville State Park restricts crowd as mitigation orders lift

Local News

LEIGHTON, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Memorial Day marks a fresh start for Beltzville State Park, with a new manager leading the way.

Pennsylvania also lifted COVID restrictions on gathering limits today but Beltzville State Park is cracking down on crowd sizes.

Beltzville State Park is officially open for the season, and there’s a new sheriff in town.

“We’re saturating the park with officers we have a bunch of staff coming in from other parks and other agencies as well, fish and boat has people out here on the lake. They’ll be here on the weekends to help us address some of the issues we have here at the park,” said new park manger, Ben Monk.

Monday, restrictions on gathering sizes were lifted across PA, but at Beltzville Monk says they’re tightening up restrictions at the gates to keep crowd sizes at bay.

“Overcrowding is an issue here at Beltzville for sure. One of the things we’ve done to address that is we shut the soccer fields down, we don’t have any more overflow parking, we got rid of that. When we reach capacity when all of our parking lots are full we’re going to close the gates, and the park will be closed for the day. We’ll set up blocking positions on Pohopoco Drive and restrict access to the park,” stated Monk.

COVID restrictions last summer meant outdoor parks were among the few places welcoming visitors.

Large crowds became a safety hazard, causing traffic incidents and overwhelming the outnumbered staff and litter got out of hand as well.

Monk, who came to Beltzville from Ohiopyle State Park in January says the presence of extra staff is already making a difference.

Diane Szwajkowski, chair of the friends of Beltzville, a non-profit volunteer group that supports the park says Monk has the right background to take on this park.

“He comes from a problem park area and I think under his leadership we’re going to move forward in a positive way,” said Szwajkowski.

To address the litter problem, Monk put out more trashcans. He says a huge part of turning the park around is simply educating people and raising awareness.

The volunteers greeted visitors as they came in, asking them if they remembered to bring trash bags, and handing out information on how they can help preserve the park.

“We’re giving them out if they forgot them, and we certainly hope they pick up after themselves and follow the rules like no alcohol, no speeding and enjoy the park! And teach the ethics of the leave no trace program,” stated Szwajkowski.

Some of the environmental impacts of past issues at the park will take much longer to correct.

From now until labor day, trailhead parking lots including wild creek, evergreen, cove, and christman trailheads will be closed from sunset on Friday to Monday morning each week.

Park officials say they had to do this in order to prevent further damage and degradation to the resource.

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