Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, is renowned for its excellent birdwatching and natural beauty, attracting more than 4 million visitors annually. At 3:30 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall, Week Seven Presenting Sponsor Erie Insurance hosts a panel discussion on “Equitable Access at Presque Isle State Park: How Public-Nonprofit Partnerships Expand Opportunities at the Jewel of Pennsylvania’s Park System.
The panel includes Barbara C. Chaffee, president and CEO of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center Foundation; Millcreek Township Supervisor Kim Clear; Presque Isle Partnership Executive Director Jon DeMarco; Presque Isle State Park Operations Manager Mathew Greene; and Erie Insurance Director of Strategic Communications Jeffrey Hileman.
Chaffee has been president and CEO of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center Foundation since 2018, overseeing and forging partnerships between the private sector and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and enhancing education, research, and the visitor experience at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center and Presque Isle State Park Complex. She served as the president and CEO of the Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership from 2011 to October 2017.
Chaffee was chosen by Gov. Tom Ridge to be a member of the team establishing the White House Office of Homeland Security. As special assistant to the president of the United States, Chaffee was senior director of public liaison; working with the private sector, international trade, and special interest organizations; she also served on bilateral teams for the smart border agreements with Canada and Mexico.
Chaffee served under Ridge as Pennsylvania’s Deputy Secretary for the Department of Community and Economic Development. Under her direction, the state was widely recognized for its innovation and leadership in economic development, tourism, film, and interactive marketing.
Clear was elected in 2021 as a Millcreek Township Supervisor, only the second female to be elected to this position since 1803. Before serving as Township Supervisor, Clear taught English for over 18 years in the Millcreek township school District and was named Golden Apple Teacher of the year in 2014. Seeking more ways to positively impact her community, in 2019, Clear made the decision to run for Erie County Council District 1 where she was elected and served as the Chair of the Finance Committee, Vice chair of Council, Election Board, and Retirement Board. While a member of County Council, Clear was appointed to the CARES Act Committee, the Covid Economic Impact Committee, and the ARPA Committee, which allocated over $75 million in pandemic-related grant funding throughout Erie County. In 2021, she made the decision to run for Millcreek Township Supervisor. Since being sworn into office in January 2022, she has focused on building an economically resilient 21st century Millcreek that provides a safe community full of opportunities for its residents.
Since 2014, DeMarco has served as the executive director of the Presque Isle Partnership, a non-profit support organization to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at Presque Isle State Park.
With more than a dozen annual events facilitated primarily by interns and volunteers, Partnership events and programs dually serve as key fundraisers that keep the mission moving forward. Under DeMarco’s leadership, the community’s support of the Partnership has been vital to improving and expanding accessibility for all visitors, enhancing park amenities to create a more enjoyable experience, ensuring public safety, preserving the park’s rich history, providing educational opportunities, and fostering a culture of conservation.
Greene has been park operations manager at Presque Isle State Park since 2015. Prior to his time as a Park Operations Manager, Greene worked in the outdoor recreation industry as a kayak instructor, whitewater guide, and National Ski Patroller. Greene continued his career with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in the state’s Bureau of State Parks in 2005 as a Park Ranger for Keystone, Ohio Pyle, Prince Gallitzin, and Point State Parks. This ultimately led to him becoming the park operations manager for Presque Isle State Park.
Greene is responsible for the overall administration, operation, and maintenance of Presque Isle State Park Complex, which includes Presque Isle State Park, Erie Bluffs State Park, and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.
Hileman is a director of Strategic Communications at Erie Insurance, leading strategy and content creation for the company’s internal communication channels. He also serves as a communications adviser to the teams advancing Erie’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Environment, Social and Governance commitments.
Presque Isle State Park, established in 1921, entails a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie. Approximately 4 million visitors explore the park each year as a result of Presque Isle’s unique qualities and vast activities. Presque Isle State Park is the most visited state park in Pennsylvania. The park’s attendance typically ranks in the top 10 of all national parks, and typically ranks close to Yellowstone National Park.
Presque Isle contains a greater number of the state’s endangered, threatened, and rare species than any other area of comparable size in Pennsylvania because of its many unique habitats. In addition, Presque Isle is the only Pennsylvania state park to have a Great Lake, Lake Erie, as a resource. The park is a National Natural Landmark that offers visitors a beautiful, sandy coastline and many recreational activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, and in-line skating. The sandy beaches, washed by the clear waters of Lake Erie, provide visitors with the only surf swimming within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.