On May 12, 1999, the Fish and Boat Commission broke ground for its new headquarters building. After years of efforts, forging partnerships, and developing innovative methods of funding this project, we finally realized our longstanding goal. We couldn't have done it without the support of the anglers and boaters of Pennsylvania, the members of the General Assembly, and Governor Tom Ridge and his Administration.

When we broke ground for our new building, we also broke ground for our agency's future. From the establishment of the Fish and Boat Commission in 1866 until now, the agency's headquarters has been housed in other state office buildings or rented facilities.

Our new headquarters is a tribute to the power of vision coupled with the results of hard work combined with a good measure of persistence and some old-fashioned common sense. As Chairman Bruce Smith of the House Game and Fisheries Committee observed at the formal groundbreaking: "The Fish and Boat Commission's headquarters project shows what partnerships can do."

In many ways, Governor Tom Ridge has been the senior partner in this effort, because he and his staff provided the key approvals for the project to proceed. This project also is an example of an effective partnership between the Commission and the General Assembly. Twice the Commission asked the legislature to approve this project in capital budgets, and twice the General Assembly said yes. It's also a good example of cooperation among state agencies. The Department of Agriculture transferred this valuable parcel to the Fish and Boat Commission at no cost in 1989. The Budget Office and the Department of General Services devoted many hours to reviewing this project and some of the legal documents that accompany it.

Most importantly, this project is an example of the strong partnership between the Fish and Boat Commission and its customers, the anglers and boaters of Pennsylvania. The sportsmen of Pennsylvania provide the strong foundation of support that is essential to completing a project of this magnitude. On behalf of our Commissioners, I want to thank the sportsmen for their steadfast support.

Our new headquarters project is a concrete expression of our faith in the future of angling and boating in Pennsylvania. When the General Assembly approved this project in 1992 and 1997, and when Governor Tom Ridge and his Administration gave us the go-ahead to proceed with this building, they were sending an unmistakable signal about the important functions our agency performs.

Why does the Fish and Boat Commission need a new headquarters? Anyone who has visited our overcrowded and inadequate rented facilities knows the answers.

  • We need a new headquarters so we can function more efficiently and effectively in serving our customers, the anglers and boaters of Pennsylvania. A building is more than a structure. What's most important is what goes on inside the building as our staff carries out our mission. 
  • We need a new headquarters so we can stop paying rent and start building equity in the ownership of our building. The Commission has made the same calculation as millions of homeowners across Pennsylvania. It would have been great if the Commission had the means to build its own building years ago so that we could have saved millions in rent payments. 
  • We need a new headquarters so it can become a center for meetings and functions relating to fishing and boating in Pennsylvania. It's time the anglers and boaters of Pennsylvania had a home they can be proud of for meetings and functions. 
  • We need a new headquarters so future generations of anglers and boaters can benefit from our foresight and vision. 

We know this new building will result in some additional costs for the Commission in the short term, but in the long run this is a good investment of angler and boater dollars.

Our new building will consolidate all of our Harrisburg area headquarters functions in one 62,000-square-foot location. It was designed to take full advantage of this rugged site but yet be functional in all respects. It was also designed to incorporate important "green" features, which will conserve energy and demonstrate our commitment to putting the "Resource First" in all that we do.

The spring of the year 2000 will be a time of celebration for Pennsylvania's anglers and boaters. Fish passage will be provided at York Haven Dam, the last barrier to shad migration on the lower Susquehanna. For the first time in more than a century, shad and other migratory fishes will be able to move up the Susquehanna to Harrisburg and beyond. And, about a year from now, I will ask sportsmen from across Pennsylvania to join us as we dedicate our new headquarters.

Our May 12 groundbreaking ceremony concluded when several youngsters, children of Commission staff, came forward with their shovels and broke ground for our building. The children's participation symbolized the future generations of anglers and boaters that our agency will serve. We recognized that we are building this headquarters not just for the here and now, but for future generations.

Implementation of the ideas outlined by the Heritage 21 Alliance would indeed be a plus for the anglers and boaters of Pennsylvania. But it doesn't end there. Commission programs benefit all Commonwealth citizens. Our 62 publicly accessible lakes and nearly 250 boating access areas support 21 million fishing trips and 20 million boating trips annually. These trips generate an economic impact for the Commonwealth valued at more than $2 billion annually. The impact of boating in the Commonwealth (including boat fishing) has been estimated at more than $1.7 billion. Angling alone generates an economic impact of $1.35 billion annually, supports more than 16,000 jobs, and generates nearly $50 million in state sales and income taxes. Nearly half of the $1.35 billion in fishing economic impact is derived from trip-related expenditures.

Peter A. Colangelo
Executive Director
Pnnsylvania Fish & Boat Commission

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July/Augsut 1999 Angler & Boater

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