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PA Lawmakers Consider Bills to Keep Parks Programming Afloat


Friday, November 12, 2021   

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Bills making their way through the Pennsylvania General Assembly would provide more resources to people who keep parks and recreational activities up and running.

House Bill 764 would allow all employees working directly with children to be hired on the same 45-day provisional basis as licensed daycare facilities, so long as they've completed state-related background checks and have applied for an FBI background check.

Rep. Brett Miller, R-Lancaster, the bill's prime sponsor, said after a recent camp worker shortage, it would help speed up the hiring process to meet the needs for youth programs.

"People want to get back into the activities," Miller observed. "The young people want to be able to participate in sports camps, and camping and the like. So, having this bill proceed with a provisional component will allow these programs to continue, youth to be served."

The bill previously passed out of the House unanimously, and got through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee at the end of October. This week, it was referred once again to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

House Bill 1694 would legally protect volunteer groups that maintain parks from lawsuits related to incidents on park grounds.

Maura McCarthy, executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy in Philadelphia, said the groups are integral to the care and management of outdoor public recreation spaces.

She pointed out at least one volunteer group dissolved due to high insurance costs from liability claims, and the bill would ensure the work they do can continue.

"It explicitly includes them in a protected group of folks who cannot be sued," McCarthy explained. "And this bill actually calls out that volunteer groups do not have a 'duty of care.' They do not have an obligation to ensure the safety of folks using that space for recreation."

More than 100 Park Friends groups help with upkeep on Philadelphia's 10,000 acres of park land. The bill passed the House Tourism and Recreational Development committee in late October.

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