The importance of Conserving Our Parks

It’s likely that if you’ve ever visited a local or state park, you’ve been aware that there is a common “pack in, pack out” rule. That means, anything, including waste, that you bring into a park, you must also remove from the park when you leave. Smaller community parks often offer trash bins and recycling containers for your waste. Conserving the natural habitat through personal responsibility in and outside parks is crucial. You can practice park conservation from your home, as well as while you’re visiting the pristine landscape of a national, state, or local park. Here are some ways you can help to do your part in conserving our parks.

Leave No Trace

When you visit a park, make sure you take anything you’ve brought with you when you leave. Trash and litter left behind can harm wildlife and the natural environment of the parks, so picking up after yourself is critical to conservation. Additionally, if you see debris and trash during your next visit, do your part and pick it up.

Donate or Fundraise

Fundraising and donations can help sustain and promote the conservation of parks all across the country. Donations fund projects and sustainability initiatives at local, state, and national levels. Funding can help facilitate programs in the community, rehab or add playgrounds to parks, and simply help to maintain the grounds.

Reduce Your Footprint

The idea of “saving the environment” can be overwhelming. People often think they need to do all or nothing in their commitment to helping the environment, but then get frustrated by the challenge. However, simple, small changes can also make a big difference in your environmental footprint. Some easy changes that help our parks are:

  • Invest in some reusable items like bottles, bags, and utensils.
  • Use fewer straws or invest in a reusable straw that you can carry with you.
  • Use the air dryer in a restroom instead of paper towels.
  • Compost and recycle.
  • Switch to bar toiletries like soap and shampoo instead of options that come in plastic containers.

Conserving our parks goes beyond simply visiting and promoting these essential natural environments. You can do your part in and outside the parks all year round!

The Most Common Animals at PA Parks

Pennsylvania is home to a diverse landscape with a variety of wildlife nestled into it. The state’s beautiful parks offer perfect places to experience the assorted wildlife that reside here. From 435 bird species to weasels and otters to even elk, the Keystone State is brimming with creatures for you to discover nearly right outside your door – or wherever your closest local park is. Let’s take a look at some of the wildlife a sharp eye is apt to find at PA parks.

River Otters

Though elusive, these water-loving creatures are a staple in Pennsylvania’s waterways. In fact, they exist in every major river system in the state. Otters sometimes live near cities, but typically prefer the wilder terrain of Pennsylvania, so you may need to head to a park that’s farther away depending on where you live. These playful pups (and adults) love to slide down muddy banks or ice and have fun with sticks, stones, food, and more. However, you may have trouble finding them in the wild but if you do, you’ll never forget it! If you can’t spot one in the wild, you might see one riding around on a license plate as Pennsylvania made the river otter a star of some of its custom options starting in 1999.

Elk

Did you know that Pennsylvania is home to Elk Country? That’s right! In almost the very middle of the state, you’ll find Elk Country in Benezette, PA. During the 1800s, this native species was entirely wiped out but in 1913 the Pennsylvania Game Commission imported elk from the West to reintroduce them to the state. Today roughly 1,200 elk roam across 10 PA counties. In Benezette, you can enjoy exploring the Elk Country Visitor Center where you can learn about the history of the animals and maybe even spot one in the wild!

Birds

Of the 435 species of birds in Pennsylvania, you’re most likely to see a Northern Cardinal or American Robin at your local parks or even in your backyard! These common birds love to visit just outside your window or your birdfeeder for a delicious bite. You also have a high chance of seeing an American Crow, Blue Jay, or Mourning Dove near your home or at your favorite park as these are common birds in the state. Break out the binoculars to try and find other less-populous gems like the Gray Catbird or White-Throated Sparrow.

There are many more kinds of wildlife to enjoy in and around the lush parks of Pennsylvania. No matter the season, you’re sure to discover something special at your local park!

How People Can Enjoy Parks & Rec Facilities When It’s Cold

Enjoying Your Local Park in the Winter

Even when there’s snow on the ground and the temperature is low, there’s lots to enjoy at your local park. People tend to get outside less during the winter months, which can negatively affect our mental health and well-being. Humans need time outdoors to recharge and get the recommended dose of Vitamin D even when the mercury dips. Your local park offers a range of activities no matter the weather or season. Here are some ways you can enjoy outdoor activities during the winter at your local park.

Sledding

While this one does require a decent amount of snow on the ground, what better way to enjoy the outdoors in winter than with some good ol’ fashioned sledding! Grab your sled and head to the closest park with hills to participate in one of the hallmarks of the winter season in Pennsylvania. Even a smallish hill will do when it comes to sledding!

Snowshoeing

If there’s enough snow on the ground, take the family out for a weekend adventure at one of the state’s many parks that feature snowshoeing trails. Typically you’d need your own gear for this beloved winter activity, but there are some private companies that rent snowshoes either near Pennsylvania’s parks or for use on their own land. As an example, Woodloch Resort in the Poconos offers snowshoe rentals.

Walking, Jogging or Running

As long as the ground is on the dryer side, you can still walk, jog, or run during the winter months. Make sure you’re outfitted properly for the weather and hit the paths or trails for some refreshing and heart-rate-increasing winter fun! You’ll be able to enjoy the fresh air and stay on track with your fitness goals even when it’s cold outside at your local parks.

Enjoy the Quiet

Oftentimes parks are less busy during the winter months which makes it a perfect time for you to take advantage of the peace. Simply listening to the sounds of winter and taking in the serene scenery while you’re all bundled up sipping a warm beverage can be a perfect winter activity at your local park. Find the next sunny day and head out to claim your spot on a park bench to breathe in the crisp winter air and appreciate your community greenspace like you don’t usually see it. Even being in the sun during cold days can help with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which many people in the Northeast suffer from.

Supporting your local parks and recreation facilities year-round is beneficial to you and your community. For more information on how you can support your local parks to ensure they’re maintained, explore our website.

4 Essential Services Offered by Your Local Park

Local parks go well beyond just being places to enjoy nature. While this is an important service that they provide, local parks offer other essential services that many may not realize which is why they’re so crucial to our communities.

Mental Health Support

This year has shown everyone how important parks and maintained outdoor spaces are when it comes to mental health. Being stuck at home took a toll on the collective mental health of our country, but parks provided a safe outlet for people to connect with nature and get active. Being urged to stay away from others and indoor spaces left people with the wonderful opportunity to get outside. All year, people have opted to simply take walks around their neighborhoods or head to local parks to learn, explore, and get active. Without these resources, we would’ve seen an even deeper dive in the collective mental health of our country. Even during normal times, people can use parks to connect with nature and themselves and reduce stress.

Education

Studies have shown that children learn better when they have access to parks. Whether it’s a local community park or a national park, kids have better focus, attention, and knowledge retention when they’re allowed to get outside. Research has also shown that when kids have access to untamed nature, they discover more. Community parks with simple walking trails through forested areas where they can explore and discover can benefit a child’s development.

Tourism

Tourism is an essential part of many communities. Even the smallest dots on the map have something to offer out-of-towners. Parks can contribute to tourism dollars through sports, festivals, and other gatherings that draw out-of-town visitors. By having usable, maintained, public outdoor spaces, communities can benefit from increased revenue through tourism. It’s likely that visitors will spend money at other area businesses when they’re in town to visit a park – for whatever the reason might be.

Recreation

Perhaps one of the most immediately recognizable essential services that parks provide is a space for outdoor recreation. Local parks offer a safe, maintained space for community members of all ages to get outside and get active. Whether going for a simple stroll or engaging in sport, area parks are crucial in recreation. Many parks offer playgrounds, sports fields, walking trails, and more so that everyone can enjoy time outside.

Both community members and parks and recreation professionals can help to foster relationships with local leaders to promote and maintain local parks as they truly do offer essential services. To find out more about how you can get involved with your local parks, check out our resources and if you are a park maintenance professional looking for tips and tricks to strengthen your park maintenance routines, check out the Pennsylvania Park Maintenance Institute.

Holiday Happenings to Catch at PA Parks

Even though the holiday season will look a little different this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a healthy dose of cheer right here in Pennsylvania. You may not be traveling far and wide to see relatives, but you and your family can experience the magic of the holiday season by checking out these local holiday happenings at PA’s parks.

Presque Isle Lights

From December 5 to January 3, experience Presque Isle State Park like you’ve never seen it! This holiday season Pennsylvania’s only “seashore” will be awash in holiday glow with a light show for all to enjoy. Notable points like the Presque Isle Lighthouse, Public Safety building, Perry Monument, beach area, and more will be showered in holiday lights for all to enjoy. As you drive through the park, you can tune into 95.5FM to enjoy holiday tunes. You can even grab a warm drink at the Lake Erie Speedway Hot Chocolate Pit Stop.

Holiday Light Spectacular at Nay Aug Park

If you’re near Scranton, head to Nay Aug Park for a holiday light spectacular you can enjoy from your own vehicle or on foot. From now until January 7, experience more than 100 light displays coupled with festive music, some synced together, as you drive or stroll through the park. This light show is free and open to the public though donations are always appreciated. Sip on hot cocoa and munch on doughnuts as you enjoy the holiday spirit. On weekends take the opportunity to visit with Santa or hop on a hayride or horse-drawn carriage ride as your mode of transportation through the park.

Holiday Lights on the Lake

More than a million lights illuminate the more than 50 acres of Lakemont Park in Altoona. For more than 20 years, this seasonal favorite has been welcoming community members to drive through the park and enjoy the season with family and friends. During your visit, stop at Santa’s Gift Shop to meet the big man himself or pick up some last-minute gifts or treats most of which are made locally. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays stop by the Alto Model Train Display and see it decked out for the holidays.

There is so much fun to be had at Pennsylvania parks no matter the season. Whether you’re driving through enchanting holiday light displays or simply barreling down a snowy hill on a sled, enjoying time outside is important year-round. Be sure to check out what the parks near you have to offer this holiday and winter season.

3 Economic Benefits of Parks

The benefits of local parks go well beyond simply providing a safe, outdoor environment for community members to enjoy. Not only do these maintained green spaces allow all members of the community free use of the grounds, parks have notable economic benefits as well. Here are three ways parks can benefit the community in which they lie economically.

Property Values

Dedicated green space adds to overall property values in an area. A survey by the National Association of Realtors noted that 50 percent of people would be willing to pay about 10 percent more for a home situated near a park or protected green space. This shows to be especially true in Pennsylvania. Across the state, municipalities with dedicated parks have higher than average housing values. A study of the 13-mile Three Rivers Park in Pittsburgh showed that the values of properties along it jumped by nearly 60 percent compared to the 32 percent increase in the rest of the city. With increased property values come increased tax revenues as well.

Increased Tourism

One of the most notable economic benefits of parks is increased tourism. Even smaller community parks can bring those from out of the area into it through organized sports and the like. In fact, the economic return on ball fields is one of the most unexpected. Often teams and their families will treat tournaments as vacations and plan an entire trip around the specific park they’ll be playing in which provides far-reaching economic benefits to the community.

Long-distance trails often pass through community or state parks which can bring in tourism from those traversing the larger trail. Local parks are also often the home base to any number of festivals, gatherings, and celebrations bringing people from different areas together and incentivizing them to spend money in the area.

Desirable Places to Live

Parks make places more desirable to live. By providing affordable opportunities for recreation and learning as well as offering a safe space to refresh your body and mind, the accessibility of parks draws people to the communities that maintain and promote them. Nearly 65 percent of people noted that parks would seriously influence their decision to move into a community in a study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders. Additionally, businesses are more likely to move into areas that will foster a positive relationship with their employees. The ability to retain employees is tightly linked to their ability to provide an office space with perks like nearby green space. All of this is directly tied to the economic landscape of any community.

Parks play a crucial role in nearly every aspect of our lives including the economy. Visiting, protecting, and supporting your local parks can help maintain them and improve your overall community. To learn more about the benefits of parks, sign up for our newsletter.

PA Parks Near Me: How to Plan Your Next Park Trip

With everyone staying closer to home, exploring parks near you can be the perfect quick getaway. Whether you’re simply visiting a new community park nearby or taking the weekend to do some exploring a little farther from home, there are lots of options when it comes to beautiful parks in Pennsylvania. If you’re interested in getting away to reset your mind and spirit from all the happenings this year, here are some tips to help you plan your next park trip.

Lodging

Check out popular lodging near the park you want to visit as you’ll need a proper home base to return to after all your exploring. Depending on your travel timeline, you may be able to score a great deal for colder weather in some of Pennsylvania’s spots where people visit more commonly during warmer weather. Keep in mind there are a lot of great vacation homes on Airbnb that may be available during your intended stay. Or, if you can be flexible in your travel, look for weekday deals!

Prepare for the Season

There are so many wonderful Pennsylvania parks to visit during fall and winter, but you want to make sure you’re prepared for what nature might throw at you. When you hit the trail, dress in layers so that you can adjust accordingly while you’re on your trek. Hitting the slopes? Bring appropriate cold-weather gear like boots and insulated coats. Just heading out for a casual hike? Be sure to pack clothing that will prepare you in case you should get stuck or lost.

Plan Your Route

Heading out across the state to a new park? Make it a photo-worthy trip! Plan your route to hit some scenic spots along the way. The most beautiful route may not always be the quickest so consider how much time you’re willing to spend checking out some more of Pennsylvania’s stunning landscape.

Bring Supplies

Make sure to pack anything you might need to both get you to where you’re going and serve you when you’re there. Save on food by either packing your own or making a plan to buy some when you arrive at your desired destination. Don’t forget your favorite road snacks and sustenance for the trails!

Consider Your Crew

Who are you bringing along on your adventure? Will you be traveling solo or bringing the entire family? Who you’re with may dictate what types of activities you’ll plan on your trip. Little ones may not be up for strenuous hikes and older family members may want to simply take in the scenery without much effort. Plan activities that will make everyone you’re traveling with happy so you can all make lasting memories together!

Be Safe

Safety has become second nature due to the ever-present threat of COVID-19. No matter what incredible park you’re preparing to explore, be sure that you pack masks, hand sanitizer, and any other safety equipment or accessories that might come in handy. Be smart about where you stop on your route and how you interact with others at your destination. Maintain social distance and wear a mask if you can’t. Additionally, understand the terrain you’re going to be working with and keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Storms can creep up quickly and turn an otherwise exciting adventure into a dangerous one. Don’t assume you’ll have cell service in the park and be smart.

Whether you’re hitting the rapids at Ohiopyle State Park or stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park, be sure to get out and see what beautiful Pennsylvania has to offer!

3 Fun Park Activities for Kids During Quarantine

It has been proven time and again that local parks are beneficial for the wellness of community members of all ages. Community parks are geared towards providing fun, safe places for anyone to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors. Even during a pandemic, community members can take advantage of their local parks. Studies show that children who spend more time outside are more likely to engage in higher levels of physical activity than those who do not. Parks provide the perfect place for children to get active outdoors! Here are the top three park activities for kids little and big.

Playgrounds

Did you know that children who live within a mile of a park with a playground are five times more likely to be a healthy weight? Many community parks offer comprehensive playgrounds with options for a variety of ages. Starting in the toddler years, children can explore local playgrounds and build a foundation of fitness through play. Playgrounds offer a host of developmental benefits for young children. From gaining self-confidence to increased creativity and imagination, playing on the playground is essential to growth.

Trails

Whether it’s a simple, paved walking path or a nature hike through the woods, trails of all kinds are great places for kids to explore and get active. Parks offer a sense of adventure and discovery for people of all ages but especially children. Taking a walk down a nature trail opens up a world of wonder full of wildlife! If your local park has a paved walking path, your children can get active on their favorite mode of transport whether it’s a bike, scooter, rollerblades, or anything in between. Just a 20-minute walk in nature can increase focus and reduce stress in people of all ages.

Sports

Most community parks offer some sort of sports area, whether it’s a basketball hoop or a tennis court. Grab a ball and play a round of H-O-R-S-E with your little ones, kick a soccer ball around, or show them how to practice their swing on the tennis court. Learning how to play a sport sets children up for a lifetime of wellness. Children who play sports are eight times more likely to be active by age 24 than those who don’t. Participation in sports also improves cognitive abilities and reduces risky behavior as children age. Getting started at your local park is an easy and accessible way to set kids on a path toward physical and mental well being.

Local parks offer a wide range of benefits for every community member especially during a time when our other outlets for mental and physical wellness may be limited or closed. Support your local parks by visiting, advocating for, and participating in programs year-round!


SOURCES:
NRPA Parks and Healthy Kids
Aspen Institute Project Place Benefits of Physical Activity

3 Lessons Kids Can Learn at Parks

There’s no denying that parks offer a multitude of benefits for children and adults alike. Visiting your local park can reduce stress, increase your physical and mental health, and provide a beautiful place to learn about nature. Research has shown that connecting with nature is also beneficial for educating children both inside and outside the classroom. Something as simple as having trees visible outside a classroom window has been proven to improve attention and test scores. Children can benefit from being outside from a very young age and building a relationship with nature is key in their overall development. Taking advantage of local parks in your community is the perfect way to foster your child’s relationship with the outdoors and enhance their education.

A Connection with Nature

Being a kid today looks a lot different than it did just 30 years ago. The majority of time is spent indoors and behind screens, even more so now that virtual school has become a necessity. Making time for your children to get outdoors and away from screens is crucial to development and education. Studies show that kids who play outside are more creative, less aggressive, and have a better attention span than those that do not. It’s recommended that children are allowed at least an hour a day of outside playtime to benefit their development. Children who spend time outdoors and in parks also develop a deeper respect for the environment that lasts well into adulthood. Connecting with nature, whether that’s in the front yard or at a local park, is an important part of daily life!

Local History

History is learned through more than textbooks. A variety of parks throughout the state and country are founded on historic grounds. Gettysburg National Military Park is at the site of the historic battle of the same name fought during the Civil War. It is home to several monuments that tell the story of this historic space. Even smaller, lesser-known parks like Rolling Hill Park in Gladwyne can feature the ruins of buildings that once stood where preserved nature now exists. At Rolling Hill Park you’ll find the remnants of stone structures that housed millworkers at the turn of the century. Getting out into these parks and seeing history firsthand is incomparable to classroom learning.

Real-World Science

Science is all about cause and effect. What better way to experiment with these principles than in nature? Children use cause and effect from a very young age to learn about the world around them. Nature is filled with ample opportunities to explore, reason, investigate, and discover new and exciting things about how things work. Things like dropping pine cones into a babbling brook to understand physics or digging in the dirt to discover a variety of rocks offer real-time, real-world science for young learners.

Parks are important for a variety of reasons, but assisting in the education and development of our children might be at the top of the list. Supporting your local parks and recreation department and advocating for community parks is one way you can help keep these spaces accessible to and maintained for everyone in your area.


SOURCES:
National Wildlife Federation – Connecting Kids and Nature

4 Most Scenic Spots – Right in Your Nearby Park!

To some, one of the best parts of getting out to Pennsylvania’s parks is capturing the magic of nature to post on the ‘gram. Luckily, our state’s beautiful parks have tons of share-worthy spots to snap while you’re out and about exploring! National Photography Day is August 19th, so what better time to highlight where you can get the best shots in any of Pennsylvania’s parks? From the mountains and valleys of Worlds End State Park to the refreshing riverside of the Delaware Water Gap, there are so many spots to capture and post for all your followers to enjoy!

Water Features

A charming water feature is always an excellent spot for a picture. Whether the park you’re visiting has a historic fountain, a babbling brook, or a raging waterfall, find a safe place to capture the majesty. Many of Pennsylvania’s parks feature beautiful waterfalls due to our lush landscape and bountiful rivers and streams. The best time to capture waterfalls is in the spring when the snowmelt is complete and water levels are higher, which makes for more powerful falls. Delaware Water Gap is home to the state’s largest waterfall, Raymondskill Falls. This three-tiered waterfall is just a few feet shorter than Niagara Falls and easily accessible by a .3-mile trail.

Open Spaces

Wide-open spaces make for some of the most stunning photographs. Pennsylvania’s parks offer a variety of terrain, but open spaces are some of the most breathtaking. Even smaller, local parks offer beautiful vistas that seem to reach out into the great unknown but are practically right outside your door. Sweeping open spaces with singular trees or a far-off treeline are great spots for sunsets or sunrises. They’re also ideal for photographers to bring their subjects for a session on sunny days!

High Points

Perhaps nothing is more rewarding than hiking up a mountain and capturing the view from the top. Why else would so many people do it? Pennsylvania is home to the Allegheny Mountains, the Pocono Mountains, as well as part of the Appalachian Mountains. There are numerous high points to discover in the Keystone State with the highest of them being Mount Davis standing at 3,213 feet in the southern part of Pennsylvania. Many high points do require a bit of work to get to, but the payoff is always worth it especially on a clear day!

Lush Landscape

Because Pennsylvania is in the Northeast where we get to enjoy all four seasons, there’s no limit to lush landscapes throughout the state. Spring gifts us with beautiful blooms both native and cultivated while fall sets our forests ablaze with stunning colors – all of which are perfectly Instagrammable. Instead of taking your next profile pic against a backdrop of fake flowers at your local crafts store, head to your local park to discover its natural beauty. As an example, the Malcolm Gross Rose Garden in Allentown is home to a variety of roses and other species that bloom during June and July. Another gem is Raccoon Creek State Park where more than 500 native species of plants blossom!

No matter what your vision is, there’s a spot to satisfy it in Pennsylvania’s parks. You don’t have to go very far to get the perfect shot with so many Instagrammable places available! Don’t forget to check our Park Finder to start planning your photoshoot, and tag @goodforpa on Instagram to show us your adventures!