PennFuture Blog

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Exceptional Waters Define the Poconos & Deserve Protection

This blog post originally appeared as a "My Turn" column published in the Pocono Record on Aug. 15.

When I was a child growing up in Hazleton, I generously described where I was from as the “western Poconos.” After I learned how to ski at Camelback, became a rafting guide on the Lehigh, and later an angler who understood the holy nature of the Delaware River and its tributaries to fishing, I better understood my desire to be associated with the Poconos, its natural beauty and pristine waters.

The wild beauty and abundance of clean and exceptional waters of the Poconos has attracted generations of families, businesses, institutions, and tourists to invest in something here - be it the whole of their lives, a second home, their vacation time and recreation funds, or the dollars needed for major industry or small and family businesses to succeed. In fact, tourism has underpinned the wellbeing of the region, and travel tourism brings $3.5 billion to the area annually, according to Pocono Mountains Tourism Bureau, Pocono Mountain Tourism Fast Facts 2018. Together, people and businesses created a Pocono region that has been able to thrive and coexist with the environment – but now, that coexistence is threatened.

A new vision for Pocono tourism is now being touted, one that PennFuture and several of our local partners, neighbors and advocates do not support.  This vision translates into major development schemes that will change the region. Instead of integrating with the land and water of this special place as businesses have done historically, the preference is to develop through wholesale clearing of forests and daylighting of shaded streams. In the place of previously natural areas, there are now swaths of macadam, concrete and swales that “manage” rainwater and snowmelt because artificial surfaces just can’t absorb water as effectively as a forest.

Some holders of these big ideas and investors in this kind of development are finding it problematic to develop the Poconos in line with the rules that have made this place special for decades. We can’t conjecture on why that is, but let’s assume that some will argue that it’s just “too expensive” to plan and engineer a development that discharges its used water into a stream in the same condition it was in when it was withdrawn from its source. We believe the majority of Pocono residents, businesses and visitors feel it is appropriate for everyone to share the responsibility for clean water, especially in a place like the Pocono region that is actually defined by its healthy environment. Also, according to the Pocono Mountain Tourism Fast Facts 2018, “Tourism in the Pocono Mountains contributes to the triple bottom line (economic, social, and environmental) like no other industry in the region.”

PennFuture and its partners are launching Our Pocono Waters Campaign to bring this issue to light and to protect the exceptional streams of our region. Through this campaign, we are working to bring awareness to the exceptional waters of the Poconos and the value the region ascribes to them. We hope to communicate to elected officials and business leaders that there are many more people who value the outstanding water quality in the Poconos than those who want to compromise our historic, pristine waters for their own benefit.

We look forward to maintaining the legacy of natural beauty in the Poconos while supporting thoughtful, responsible development, and hope you will join us by visiting to learn more.


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