On October 19, the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association published the final version of the first edition of the Model Declaration of Public Trust.
People rely on their parks and other public open spaces as stable, reliable places of comfort, rest, and renewal in their lives. They expect that these places will always be there for them. In Pennsylvania, this expectation is supported by the Pennsylvania Constitution, centuries of common law, and statutes enacted by the General Assembly.
In the absence of a formal government dedication, there can be gray area in determining whether land owned by local government is truly parkland or other open space held in trust for the public. And even with a formal dedication, there can be questions as to whether a particular government action affecting the land is allowable.
To reduce the risks of problems, a local government may want to make a practice of formally dedicating lands it intends to hold in trust for the public and, at that time, explicitly stating any reservations, exceptions, or limitations applicable to the dedication. The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association developed the Model Declaration of Public Trust to help local governments implement this practice. Three alternative documents are included in the publication to provide local governments maximum flexibility in achieving their goals.