PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Started in 1994, National Public Lands Day brings together thousands of volunteers to help restore and improve public lands.
Onnolee Jansen, Environmental Education Specialist Supervisor at Kings Gap Environmental Education Center says, “It’s now the single largest one-day volunteer event in the country – for public lands.”
Celebrating our local parks has a particularly special meaning this year.
Jansen explains, “With the pandemic especially – we’ve had so much increase in visitation that being able to continue to provide is more important now than ever.”
Even with the increased visitation as a result of the pandemic, Kings Gap has thankfully not seen an increase in trash left around the park.
“Luckily everyone here has been very respectful. We’re just so happy and pleased that we can be open to everyone and that everyone is being respectful in our park. I know that that is not the case in some of the other state parks," Jansen says.
While volunteers won’t necessarily be cleaning up this park, there are still plenty of projects to take on.
Jansen explains, “One of our main priorities this year is trail work. We’re actually constructing a new trail in the park. We also have other projects like invasive species removal which is really important to our forest ecosystem.”
To ensure social distancing, park officials are making some changes to the event this year.
Jansen says, “Some of the restrictions that we have in place are limiting numbers for one, making sure our volunteers are outside so that everyone can have that space to social distance, providing masks – we do have masks just in case volunteers forget masks, and we are sterilizing all of our PPE.”
Guess what? Kings Gap is not the only park that is looking for extra volunteers this Saturday!
Little Buffalo State Park in Perry County, Cowans Gap State Park in Franklin County, and Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Cumberland County are all in need of some extra hands for everything from flower gardening to painting to trash clean up.
The amount of volunteers allowed to register is limited this year because of COVID-19, make sure to register before you head out!