MLK Day is more than just a day off from work. While honoring Martin Luther King specifically, the day can also be an incredible reminder to do some good in your neighborhood and help those around you.
Let’s say you spend lots of time walking the dog on your nearby trail. Perhaps your child uses the recreation center for sports. Maybe you wish you spent more time in your local park, but wish certain aspects were improved. Whatever the case is, there’s a multitude of reasons to want to play a part in bettering an outdoor space or recreation center near you and, in turn, bettering the state of the planet as well.
Parks and recreation facilities in your area are constantly working to create good community between residents, a habitat for a plethora of wildlife, plants and trees, and tons of opportunities for exercise, activity, and learning. It’s time to give back! Use the day to consider ways that you can make a difference going forward, so that the places you love to visit will be places that everyone will enjoy visiting for years to come.
Remember, parks and recreation facilities also improve quality of life, can raise property values, and contribute to a healthy environment. All great reasons to get involved and do your small part.
Here are some doable actions that can be a great start to environmental activism.
Get Your Hands Dirty
A messy environment equals messy thoughts. A park should be a place to unwind, not stress, and visible trash can be detrimental to your state of mind – not to mention the damage it does to nature and wildlife. While making an effort to not litter is great, what about the litter already sullying your neighborhood and outdoor areas?
The “Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful” organization offers a “Pick Up PA” program (https://www.keeppabeautiful.org/programs/pick-up-pa/) open to the public with a huge selection of dates for group litter cleanups. Grab some gloves and trash bags and register today!
More into toughing it out on your own? Make a personal resolution to pick up at least five pieces of litter next time you visit your local park.
Meet With the Decision-Makers
You don’t have to be a council member to speak up for change. If you have thoughts, suggestions, or concerns about your recreational outdoor areas, there’s a meeting room just waiting to welcome you. If you’re more of an observer, that’s fine too! Showing up for your neighborhood can be extremely beneficial. Get to know your fellow park lovers and hear about issues that may be directly affecting you.
If you’re looking to make even bigger changes, the Conservation & Natural Resources Advisory Council of Pennsylvania hosts multiple meetings a year in Harrisburg that are open to the public (https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/CNRAC/Pages/default.aspx). Bring your concerns up to the big dogs!
Put Your Money Where Your Park Is
Can’t seem to find time to get out of the house? Life too hectic right now to make it to a park cleanup or board meeting? No need to move anything besides your fingers on the mousepad. Consider donating to different sources that work to better park education, nature, and communities. Even a one-time donation can make a huge difference. A few clicks and you’re done!
Want to see kids getting to play on a fresh playground without the fear of rust or splinters? Passionate about park visitors getting the opportunity to do some hands-on learning during their next visit? The People, Parks & Community Fund (https://tinyurl.com/5n99657y) of the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society is dedicated to supporting recreational and educational opportunities, creating and sustaining local parks, and envisioning and promoting vibrant, livable communities.
The options are endless, and the cost is usually minimal – but always worth it!
Put Your John Hancock to Good Use
What’s even quicker than donating money? Your signature! Simply signing a petition regarding something you care about can do more good than you realize. There really is power in numbers! A quick search on change.org or actionnetwork.org can not only show you a countless number of petitions to sign, but also keep you informed on some of the environmental and societal issues that could be occurring right outside your house.
Just one example of a Pennsylvania outdoor-based petition you could contribute to right now is the Coalition to Save the Meadows (https://www.savethemeadows.com/) initiated by a group fighting the destruction and privatization of the urban meadow in South Philadelphia’s FDR Park.
Feeling even more inspired? Want to become the direct source of change? Create your own petition based on something within your park system that you feel passionate about. Public outdoor areas are a great spot to collect signatures, by the way!
Whether the actions you take are more direct, like picking up litter or attending a meeting, or more virtual with things like petitions and donations, any kind of help makes a difference. Okay, we know you’re busy, but giving back some good to your local recreational grounds can make a big difference, no matter how small. Just think about all the times you’ve wandered through a park or swam in a public pool or found a great trail to hike or pushed your little one on a swing in a community playground. The parks and rec were always there for you. It’s a good time to be there for them. Thanks in advance!