PA Wildflowers In Bloom

You may have noticed that your daily commute, weekend bike ride or early evening stroll have become much more colorful. That’s because wildflowers are in bloom across our lawns, fields, parks, hills, and roadsides. 

If you’re wondering which of these wonderful wildflowers you can spot and enjoy this spring, keep reading as we highlight some of our favorites!

Harbinger of Spring

Any discussion of PA wildflowers that grow in the spring has to include this aptly-named beauty! The harbinger of spring earned its name because it is one of the first wildflowers to bloom each spring. 

Distinguished by its dark red stems, bright white petals and the tiny cluster of flowers that sprout from its center, this unique wildflower is a great source of nectar for pollinators such as bees. While this wildflower (which is a member of the carrot family) was once common across the state, it is now largely found in Western and East-Central PA. 

Dandelion

There’s no denying that dandelions are the bane of most lawn enthusiasts’ existence. Dismissed as an annoying weed, these wildflowers do have their positive traits. 

Not only do they add a pop of much needed vibrant color to our communities after cold, gray winters, dandelions are also given as gifts by our state’s tiniest residents. Many dandelions have been plucked with pride by young children and presented to their parents and grandparents as a gift of affection. Take a close look at your neighbors’ window sills and desks this spring, and you’ll probably see some dandelions lovingly displayed in a small vase. 

Blue Violets

If you love seeing butterflies fluttering through the air on a warm, sunny day, then you can thank these wildflowers. Another PA wildflower you’ll spot this spring, the blue violet is a favorite food of caterpillars who soon become beautiful butterflies. 

Commonly found in fields and lawns across the state, blue violets are not only a favorite food for wildlife, they can also be safely eaten by humans, too. In fact, many Native Americans, including the Lenapes once used the blue violet for medicinal purposes. 

Spring-Beauty

Introducing another appropriately named wildflower – the spring-beauty!

Featuring lovely pink-and-white-striped petals, this PA wildflower is commonly found in shady, moist areas of our local woods and forests. Also known as the fairy spud or meadow beauty, the spring-beauty is found throughout the Northeast but seems to be particularly fond of life in Western Pennsylvania counties. 

Yellow Trout Lily

One of the most distinctly shaped and colored wildflowers, the yellow trout lily features banana peel-shaped petals that are bright yellow on one side and slightly brown on the opposite side. That brown tinge resembles a trout’s skin, hence this wildflower’s name. 

Another wildflower that attracts pollinators, the yellow trout lily is also a favorite of ants. In fact, this smart wildflower encourages ants to carry its seeds underground. Then, after the ants discard the seeds, they grow into new flowers the following spring!  

If you’re looking for these beautiful wildflowers, you can typically find them near streams and along hillsides throughout the state. 

White Trillium

One of the largest spring wildflowers, white trillium is also one of the most beautiful!

A member of the lily family, white trillium (which means “tri-lily”) is identifiable by its three large white petals, three green sepals below the petals, three pistils, and six yellow stamens. A completely scentless wildflower, it’s another effective attractor of pollinators. Areas of Pennsylvania that are rich with white trillium typically have a high population of white-tailed deer as this wildflower is one of their favorite foods. 

These are just a few of the many unique and eye-catching wildflowers you’ll see in our state this spring. Some of the best places to see a wonderful assortment of wildflowers and wildlife are your local PA parks. 

If you would like to spend a day spotting wildflowers and observing wildlife in their natural environments, plan a trip to your local PA park!

 Not sure which parks are closest to your doorstep? That’s ok! You can access our user-friendly  Explore PA Local Parks locator to discover the many wonderful resources in your area. 

And if you want to be the first to know about the great events happening in your local parks and recreational facilities, be sure to subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter!

Celebrate “Bike To Work Day” In PA

May is a popular month for many reasons. It’s not only the last full month of spring, it’s also host to special occasions (Mother’s Day) and holidays (Memorial Day). It’s also the time we observe National Bike Month, an annual celebration of the bicycle’s many benefits that doubles as an opportunity to encourage everyone to bike more often. 

Composed of multiple bicycle-related events, National Bike Month allows individuals and groups to experience the benefits of biking first-hand in an effort to promote activity, wellness, safety and community in our neighborhoods. One of these events is one you may not be familiar with: National Bike to Work Day. 

In the following article, we’ll tell you about National Bike to Work Day, explain some of the great benefits of biking to work, discuss how to share the road with cyclists, and tell you about some of the great ways you can encourage your community to participate in this special day! 

What is National Bike to Work Day? 

Established in 1955 by the League of American Bicyclists, National Bike to Work Day is observed on the third Friday of May to promote cycling to work as a safe and healthy alternative for commuting to workplaces. It accomplishes these goals by highlighting the many benefits of cycling and by raising awareness of the need for increased road safety for commuting cyclists. 

Thanks to this annual event, many individuals have discovered the benefits of biking to work and are now enjoying this activity every day. In addition, drivers have learned how they can safely share the road with commuting cyclists. 

What are the Benefits of Biking to Work?

To promote biking to work as an alternative to driving, Bike to Work Day focuses public attention on the many benefits of this worthwhile option.

Biking to work 

  • Helps individuals and families reduce their expenses due to rising gas prices and auto repair disruptions and price increases resulting from supply chain shortages. 
  • Reduces carbon footprints by limiting carbon emissions from vehicles.
  • Prolongs the lifespan of vehicles by reducing mileage and everyday wear-and-tear. 
  • Promotes a healthy lifestyle by keeping commuters active and introducing a regular exercise routine to their day. This benefit is so significant that the American Medical Association (AMA) chose to endorse Bike to Work Day. 

Highlighting the benefits of biking to work is just part of the purpose of this annual event. The other goal of Bike to Work Month is to educate everyone about the importance of road safety for bicyclists and motorists. 

How to Stay Safe When Biking to Work

As more and more professionals choose to bike to work and enjoy its benefits, this influx of bicyclists has been cause for concern. Since many residential streets and major roadways were designed for automotive travel, cyclists and drivers may be at risk of accident or injury if the proper measures to share the road are not observed by all parties. 

To raise awareness of these issues, National Bike to Work Day goes to great lengths to educate communities across the country about safely sharing the road. 

First and foremost, all cyclists and motorists should be familiar with traffic laws and follow them at all times. Avoidable accidents have occurred because cyclists believe that certain rules (such as stop signs and traffic patterns) only apply to drivers. Other times, drivers try to quickly pass cyclists only to cause the cyclist to lose control of their bike or run off the side of the road. These scenarios can be avoided if all commuters understand and obey the rules of the road. 

Communities can help protect cyclists and drivers by adding bike lanes to their streets and roadways. Incorporating these dedicated spaces in road designs increase cyclist safety and reduce the chances of them being run off of the road and/or veering into oncoming traffic.  

As more and more individuals choose to bike to work, rules, regulations and alterations will evolve in our communities. National Bike to Work Day events will help inform communities of these updates and encourage everyone to stay informed of ongoing changes all year long. 

How to Involve Others in National Bike to Work Day

While Bike to Work Day sounds great to you, others in your workplace or community may be skeptical. To help encourage participation in your community, here are some fun suggestions to generate greater interest:

  • Highlight the Benefits – Using the list above, discuss the financial and health benefits of biking to work. 
  • Highlight the Convenience – Is parking limited at your workplace? Is a quick car commute impossible due to daily traffic jams? Let your coworkers know that they can avoid these inconveniences by biking to work.
  • Incentivize Your Employees – If you’re a business owner, you can encourage employees to participate in Bike to Work Day by offering an incentive. Offer them a free lunch. Present them with a gift card to a local cycle shop. Or, allow them to leave a little early that Friday to enjoy a scenic commute – and avoid traffic! 

Are you ready to celebrate Bike to Work Day? We are too! Actually, we celebrate bicycling every day at our local PA parks! 

If your commute is too far for a bike ride or this event has made you want to cycle more, you can always enjoy the many bike trails found in your local park. To find the bike trail that’s closest to your community, simply use our helpful Explore PA Local Parks tool

And if you want to stay informed about great community events like National Bike to Work Day, subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter!

Get Hooked On Fly Fishing in PA

April is a month that Pennsylvania anglers eagerly await each year. Why? That’s when trout season begins! 

Why do so many PA residents enjoy fishing? Some love the thrill of catching their own dinner. Others thrive on bragging about the record-breaker fish that got away. And even more love the subtle moments such as listening to the sounds of the flowing water. All in all, fishing in PA is a great way to relax, enjoy the spring weather and spend time outdoors. 

While spin fishing (also known as bait fishing and regular fishing) is the most commonly recognized form of fishing, there’s another option that many find even more appealing: fly fishing. 

If you’re new to fishing and don’t know where to begin (or you’re an avid angler who’s up for a new challenge), keep reading to learn more about fly fishing, its appropriate gear and the best places to enjoy this activity in PA.  

How is Fly Fishing Different from Spin Fishing? 

Although there are many differences between spin fishing and fly fishing, we’ll look at their contrasting characteristics from a technical standpoint.

Spin fishing uses a spin rod to cast a weighless line with a hook attached at its end. On that hook rests a weighted object such as a piece of live bait or an artificial lure that resembles. The fish takes the bait, the angler sets the hook, and then reels the prize in. 

Fly fishing uses the same concept as spin fishing – but puts its own unique spin on it (pardon the pun). The fly fisherman casts a weighted fishing line (called a fly line) and uses a lure that is weightless – just like a fly. 

Instead of casting the line once and allowing the hook and bait to sink below the water line to attract fish, fly fishing requires frequent casting with the lure and hook briefly resting on the surface for brief periods of time. This method is performed to imitate the actions of a fly or insect landing on the water.     

What You’ll Need for Fly Fishing 

While there are lots of spin fishing gear options, you can always get by on the three most basic components: a spin rod, monofilament fishing line and your preferred bait or lure. 

Fly fishing, even in its most basic form, requires a great deal of specialized gear:

  • Fly Fishing Rod – While fly fishing rods are available in various sizes and weights (and ranges in price from under $100 to over $100), we recommend using a graphite rod that runs in the $50-$100 range until you perfect your fly fishing technique.  
  • Fly Fishing Reel – Similar to rod, fly fishing reels are available in various materials and at various prices. Although plastic fishing reels are inexpensive, they’re not very reliable. We suggest using a metal reel in the $100 range. 
  • Fly Backing – This is the line you’ll need to fill up most of your reel. It’s often brightly colored so it’s easier to see on the surface of the water.
  • Fly Line – This thick, heavy line provides the weight you need to cast. This is also brightly colored so it’s easier to see on the water. 
  • Leader & Tippet – The leader is used to connect the thick, heavy fly line to the tippet which is a thin, transparent line that holds the fly. 
  • Flies – Extremely lightweight lures that are designed to resemble insects and rest on the water’s surface.

Ok. Now that you have all of the necessary information and gear, it’s time to find the best places to fly fish in PA. 

Where To Go For Fly Fishing in PA 

While spin fishing is ideal for still waters, fly fishing works best with moving waters such as rivers. Why? Faster moving water gives the trout less time to figure out that the fly they spotted is a phony. While it is still possible to fly fish in still waters, the trout are more likely to figure out that the fly is not what it seems. 

Since we don’t have the space to list all of the great local parks that are perfect for fly fishing, we can do the next best thing: provide you with our local park finder. This handy and helpful resource allows you to locate the best local parks for first-rate fishing in your community (or neighboring communities). 

If you enjoyed learning about fly fishing and would love to know more about the many great things that are happening at PA parks, be sure to sign up for the Good For PA newsletter! 

PA Rails To Trails For Hiking, Biking and More!

There was a time when trains were the main form of continental transportation. Railroad tracks crossed the country from north to south and east to west. For years, this means of transportation thrived. Over time, other advances in transportation such as airplanes and motor vehicles replaced the once mighty locomotives as the preferred way to travel and transport goods and materials. 

When the trains ceased running, their abandoned railroad tracks littered the landscape. For years, these unused tracks cluttered up communities until a movement to repurpose these abandoned areas was founded. 

Instead of allowing these tracks to continually deteriorate, the rails to trails movement converts former railways systems into scenic trails that are ideal for hiking, biking, walking, running, horseback riding and, in some cases, cross country skiing.  

Pennsylvania is one of the leading rails to trails developers in the country with almost 200 completed and functional trails. 

Here are a few of the many outstanding rails to trails options you’ll find in the Keystone State. 

PA Rails to Trails That Are Under Five Miles Long 

If your preference is for trails that you can complete in a morning or afternoon, then there are lots of options that are under five miles long. Here are two wonderful choices that are ideal for leisurely strolls, quick workouts or to build stamina for longer trails in the future:

  • Bartram’s Mile Trail – A newer addition to the popular (and much larger) Schuylkill River Trail, this 1.1 mile asphalt trail is designed for walking, jogging and biking. To enjoy Bartram’s Mile Trail, visitors access it from the 56th Street Plaza continue their journey to Bartram’s Garden (a historical landmark and public garden in Southwest Philadelphia), and head north to conclude their trip at the Grays Ferry Bridge. Along the way, visitors can enjoy gorgeous views of the Schuylkill River and the Philadelphia skyline. If visitors wish to extend their journey, they can easily connect to the Grays Ferry Crescent Trail (another segment of the Schuylkill River Trail) via an operational swing bridge.  
  • J. Manley Robbins Trail – Larger than Bartram’s Mile Trail, yet still under five miles, this combination grass and gravel trail is believed to be one of the oldest in the country. Located in Montour County along the old Reading Railroad line, this three-mile trail is ideally suited for walking, running, hiking, biking and horseback riding. During the winter months, many PA residents take advantage of significant snowfalls by cross country skiing along this trail. No matter what time of year visitors hit this trail, they’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the Mahoning Creek.   

A PA Rails to Trails That Is Rich In State History 

Looking for a trail that offers more than an opportunity for a great workout and scenic views. Then you’ll want to set your compass for the option that was once named “Trail of the Month” by the Rails to Trails Conservancy: 

  • Ghost Town Trail – Spanning 46 miles between Cambria and Indiana Counties, the Ghost Town Trail incorporates elements of PA history throughout its 36 miles, including grist mills, coal hoppers from the old C&I Railroad, and the Eliza Furnace. Named after the area’s abandoned mining towns, this crushed stone hiking/biking/walking trail is part of the Trans Allegheny Trails Network

The Ultimate PA Rail Trail

No article about PA’s rails to trails is complete without mentioning the ultimate trail of all:

  • Great Allegheny Passage – This 335-mile, multi-state crushed-limestone trail begins in Pittsburgh, extends to Maryland and ends in Washington D.C. Along the way, trailblazers can stop at the Allegheny Museum, camp at Cedar Creek, visit the historic Pump House (which supplied water from the Monongahela River to the Carnegie Steel Company) and enjoy the many natural wonders of the great outdoors. 

Ready to hit the rails to trails this year? Eager to enjoy all the great parks, events and recreational facilities Pennsylvania has to offer? Then be sure to stay up to date on all of the latest PA parks news and announcements by subscribing to the Good For PA newsletter! 

Discover Orienteering: A Fun and Helpful Recreational Activity

Technology is great – when it works. Right now, most PA residents have an incredibly sophisticated and extremely portable device in their pockets that connects them to the internet, captures pictures and video, lets them send email, provides weather updates – and even makes phone calls! 

One of the most popular features that many smartphone users rely on is a global positioning system (GPS) app. Using their preferred GPS app, smartphone users can find detailed driving/walking/biking/public transit directions, avoid traffic jams, find faster routes and so much more. It really beats the old days of having to rely on paper maps to find the best course for any kind of trip.   

Unfortunately, this technology often does not work in more remote locations like local parks, trails, wooded areas and campgrounds. And since so many people have become reliant on technology to plot their various courses, they’re unfamiliar with tried-and-true navigation tools such as maps and compasses. 

The good news is that many folks realize their lack of navigational skills and are doing something about it. More and more PA residents are discovering the fun and practical art of orienteering.

Never heard of orienteering? That’s ok! Keep reading and you’ll learn all about this fun and helpful recreational activity. 

What is Orienteering? 

Some refer to orienteering as an art. Others consider it a sport. What we can tell you is that it’s a fun and extremely useful activity that improves your navigational skills. 

Originally designed as a military training exercise, orienteering involves the use of a detailed map and a compass to safely and successfully navigate an unfamiliar course or piece of terrain. Using the map, participants must travel from the starting line and make their way though the course visiting each assigned checkpoint as they go until they reach the finish line. 

As participants reach each checkpoint (which is identified by a location flag), they will punch a card they’ve been given with their map to indicate their progress.  When they reach the finish line, they will present an official with their card to verify that they have successfully completed the course. 

Orienteering activities can vary between fun family and group events to actual competitions where they reward participants. 

The Benefits of Orienteering 

As you can see, orienteering can be a great deal of fun for individuals, families and friends. In addition to its entertaining value, orienteering is also extremely helpful in many other ways. 

First, orienteering helps individuals build map- and compass-reading skills. By acquiring these skills, orienteering enthusiasts will be prepared for situations where their GPS app is unavailable. They’ll be able to efficiently and effectively walk/bike/backpack through parks and trails, navigate busy streets in an unfamiliar city, find their way around snowy terrain when skiing, and so much more. 

Orienteering also helps strengthen muscles and build brain power. Not only does it strengthen leg muscles and provide a well-rounded cardiovascular workout , it also lets participants challenge their brains and build better problem-solving and decision-making skills. 

It’s also incredibly beneficial for developing stronger self-reliance skills as well as team-building/collaboration skills, too. Many practice orienteering skills individually to improve their critical-thinking skills and ability to perform under pressure/stress in their personal and professional lives. Orienteering in a team improves communication, collaboration and gives everyone a common goal to achieve. 

Where to Start Orienteering 

Ready to discover the joys of orienteering but don’t know where to start? That’s ok. We have you covered. 

Many local parks offer a variety of orienteering courses and events. From beginner’s courses and non-competitive events to advanced courses and major competitions, PA parks host a wonderful array of orienteering opportunities throughout the year. 

For those who want to learn more about orienteering before they take their first step, many local PA parks and recreations services offer introductory programs to teach the basics of orienteering. 

If you love learning about your local parks and the many fun activities and programs they offer (like orienteering), be sure to sign up for the Good For PA newsletter! That way you’ll always know the latest news and events that are happening in your local parks!

Mountain Biking Etiquette at PA Parks

When the first signs of spring arrive, mountain biking enthusiasts get extra excited. The days are now longer, the weather is much warmer and the bike trails are free of snow and ice. 

If you’re new to mountain biking or have never ridden the trails of your local park, now is the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself with the proper etiquette. 

Below, you’ll learn all of the various best mountain biking practices that will ensure a fun and safe time every time you and area enthusiasts ride the trails! 

Obey All Bike Trail Signage 

The first rule of being a considerate mountain biker is to abide by the signs posted along the designated trails. Sometimes trails may be directional, so it’s important for you to follow the defined course to ensure your safety and that of others. Like any road, bike trails are subject to announced and unannounced closures. On certain days, the trail may be closed for routine maintenance (such as patch repairs, debris clearing). Other times, the trail may be closed for more serious matters (flooding, fire). If you see a “Bike Trail Closed” sign, please do not ignore it.  

To avoid being disappointed by trail closures, we recommend that you visit the park’s website or social media page to check for any news or updates before your visit. Or you can always call your local parks and recreation department for the latest information. 

Only Ride Designated Trails

Many parks have dedicated bike trails. Others may not. If you visit a park and it doesn’t have a clearly marked bike trail, it’s best to speak with a park ranger/representative or land manager before proceeding. It would be poor form (not to mention dangerous) to ride your mountain bike on a walking trail. Even worse, you could be trespassing on private property or damaging a protected area of the park. 

One of the best ways to find the best designated mountain bike trails/areas is to use Good For PA’s local park locator. That’s where you can find more information about local parks near you and determine which ones are best suited for your bike riding needs. 

Respect Your Local Park

Perhaps the most important rule of mountain biking in your local parks is to leave no trace. For most visitors, leaving no trace equates to avoiding litter. When it comes to mountain bikers, leaving no trace is a bit more involved. Mountain bikers should never alter or change the trails in any way. That means the bikers are prohibited from cutting branches or damaging trees, creating shortcuts through undesignated areas, and to avoid deliberately sliding or intentionally splatter mud up to minimize damaging trails. 

Protect Wildlife 

While visitors are drawn to local parks for a variety of reasons, one of the biggest is to see local wildlife in their natural habitats. As the park is their home it’s important for mountain bike fans to avoid any intentional damage or minimize accidental damage along the trail. Riding the trails in more remote areas also means being extra cautious of our animal friends. Riders do not want to accidentally scare or injure an animal that may be crossing the trail. 

Do Not Block the Trail 

Sometimes bikers need to take a break. Other times that may experience unexpected bike trouble (flat tire, faulty gear). If a biker needs to take a break or stop for any reason, it’s imperative that they move to the side of the trail instead of remaining in the middle of the trail. This not only helps keep trail traffic flowing, it also minimizes the risk of bike accidents. 

When you practice proper mountain bike etiquette, you’ll ensure that you and all park visitors have a fun and safe experience. Plus, you’ll help correctly maintain the trails so they do not have to be frequently closed for repair. 

If you’re interested in learning more about making the most of your local parks, please sign up for the Good For PA newsletter! We’re always sharing helpful tips and information so you can enjoy local PA parks to their fullest!

All You Need To Know About Maple Sugaring in PA

Making delicious maple syrup is not strictly a New England endeavor. Pennsylvanians have been doing it for hundreds of years. In fact, you can make your own syrup using the maple trees located right in your own backyard! 

All you need to make your own maple syrup is the right tools, a bit of knowledge about maple trees, a brief lesson on how to tap the trees and collect the sap, and how to turn that sap into a tasty treat!

Keep reading to learn more about the joys of maple sugaring in Pennsylvania! 

How To Collect Maple Syrup In Your Backyard 

Before you tap your first tree to collect the sap used to make maple syrup, you’ll need to assemble the necessary tools. 

Here’s what you’ll need to successfully tap a maple tree:

  • A portable drill with a clean, sharp 5/16” bit
  • Spouts for the tap holes (choose from metal spouts, plastic spouts with plastic tubing or homemade spouts using hollowed out pieces of sumac)
  • Storage containers to collect the sap (choose from metal or plastic buckets or empty, clean gallon milk jugs)

If your buckets should have a small hole a few inches below the lip so it can hang on the spout to collect the running sap. And be sure to add a shield of covers over your bucket or container to prevent rainwater, leaves, dirt or debris from contaminating your sap. 

Now that you have everything you need to tap and collect maple sap, there are few things you need to know before you actually tap your first tree:

  • Locate any native maple tree with a trunk diameter that is great than 11”
  • For ease of collecting sap, most taps are located between two and four feet above the ground
  • Avoid previous tap holes by a few inches to minimize tree wounds
  • Trees with a trunk diameter greater than 11” can support one tap; trees with a trunk diameter between 18” and 24” can support two taps; trees with a trunk diameter greater than 24” can support three taps
  • The best time to tap a tree is when the daily temperature range from 40°F- 50°F with overnight lows of about 20s (Typically between February and early April)
  • During the month-long season, a healthy maple tree can produce approximately 10 gallons of sap or 1 quart of maple syrup
  • Sugaring season ends when the overnight temperatures no longer dip below freezing temperatures 

Ok, now you’re ready to tap your first tree. Gather all of your necessary tools, identify the trees you wish to tap (make sure the diameters are greater than 11”), and determine the number of taps you’ll need. Then perform the following steps:

  • Insert the bit of the cordless drill into the trunk and slightly angle it upward 
  • Drill a hole approximately 2” to 3” deep and clear out any dust or debris
  • Insert the spout and gently tap it into the tree with a rubber mallet
  • Attach the container to the hook on the spout or place the container at the base of the tree and secure it using heavy blocks of wood or bricks 
  • Be sure to cover your container 
  • Empty your container at least once a day (especially if the temperatures are warmer than usual)

When you go to empty your container for the first time do not be surprised to find that it is filled with water. The sap that comes out of the is mostly water which contains only 2%-3% sugar. To produce the syrup, you’ll need to boil off the water. 

How to Make Maple Syrup

Now that you’ve collected multiple gallons of raw sap, it’s time to boil and refine it to make maple syrup!

You’ll need a shallow, aluminum baking pan, a candy thermometer, a small mesh strainer with handle, a small funnel, paper towels, and several empty jars to store the finished product. 

To boil and refine your sap:

  • Place and secure the shallow pan over an outside fire or grill 
  • Fill the pan with the raw sap
  • Heat the raw until boiling to evaporate the water
  • As the water evaporates, add more raw sap to the pan
  • When all of the water has evaporated, the remaining sugar becomes thick and dark
  • Relocate the remaining sugar to a large pot to finish the process on the kitchen stovetop
  • Using a candy thermometer, determine if the sap is finished boiling. It should be about 212°F
  • Ladle the sap into a paper towel-lined mesh strainer to remove any sediment
  • Add the filtered contents to an empty pitcher
  • While the syrup is still hot, empty it into the empty jars using a funnel
  • Cap the jars tightly, store them on their sides to create a better seal, and store them in a cool, dry place
  • Once a jar is opened, store it in a refrigerator to prevent the syrup from spoiling

Maple Festivals in PA

If you enjoy backyard maple sugaring, you’ll be happy to know that Pennsylvania hosts multiple maple festivals each year! 

Some of PA’s most popular maple festivals include:

And if you want to make backyard maple sugaring a regular hobby, be sure to visit the Northwest Pennsylvania Maple Association to learn more about this fun (and delicious) endeavor! 

If you enjoyed learning all about maple sugaring in PA and want to know what other fun hobbies and activities await you in PA’s local parks and recreational centers, sign up for the Good For PA newsletter! 

Repurposing Malls and Shopping Centers for the Community

For years, the mall’s sole purpose was to be the go-to place for a community’s shopping needs. Among the national anchor stores, shoppers had access to retailers that offered everything from apparel and footwear to furniture and fixtures to toys and sporting goods – and everything in between. As online shopping gained popularity, the once-thriving malls began to seem irrelevant. More and more stores began to close their doors and it seemed like most malls were destined to do the same.

While that is the case for some malls, others are adapting to these changing times. Instead of being a destination for commerce, many PA malls are saving their properties by adding attractions that their communities actually need – and value.

Here are a few of the great examples of how many PA malls and shopping centers have transformed into community-focused centers.

The Center at the Mall

A prime example of repurposing retail space as a community center can be found at the Beaver Valley Mall in Monaca, PA. Designed to give Beaver County residents over 50 a place to socialize and stay active, the Center at the Mall community wellness center accomplishes this mission through its fitness center, WiFi cafe, information center, and various programs, classes, activities and events.

Free to join, the Center at the Mall currently has over 12,000 members, making it the largest senior community center in the area. Managed by the nonprofit Lutheran Service Society program with funding provided by the Beaver County Office on Aging, Pennsylvania Lottery and community sponsors, this thriving senior center also features a popular lunch program every Monday to Friday from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM.

If you’d like to know more about the Center at the Mall, be sure to check out their monthly newsletter!

Berks Community Health Center

After a major supermarket chain closed the doors of a store located in an Eastern PA shopping center, the 37,000-square-foot retail space stodd vacant for five years. Rather than lease the space to another retailer, forward-thinking community members decided to convert the space into a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) to better serve the underrepresented residents of Reading. The result is the innovative Berks Community Health Center.

Designed to provide first-rate healthcare to area residents (regardless of insurance or economic status), the Berks Community Health Center serves the community by providing affordable and comprehensive health services.

A shining example of repurposing former retail spaces to better address the needs of the community, the Berks Community Health Center is also in an ideal location for community members who walk or rely on public transportation.

The Centre Region Active Adult Center

Located in an empty storefront of the Nittany Mall, the Centre Region Active Adult Center is another wonderful example of reimagining retail space for the greater good of the community at large.

Formerly known as the Centre Region Senior Center, this first-rate community resource offers active adults aged 55 and older access to a wide array of classes, activities and events. From fitness programs to a variety of clubs, the center also schedules numerous outings throughout the year along with monthly meals, events and guest speakers. You can keep up the latest news and events by viewing or printing out the monthly calendar!

These are just a few of the many ways communities in Pennsylvania and throughout the US are repurposing their former shopping centers and malls as community spaces. This is a trend that we see continuing and evolving as public demand for more community resources increases.

If you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about existing and new community centers and spaces in your PA neighborhood, be sure to sign up for the Good For PA newsletter!

Top Four Snow Sports You Can Enjoy In Local PA Parks

When winter arrives, most of us head indoors to escape the cold PA weather and snowy conditions. Yet, there are just as many people who break out their skis, snowboards and sleds to get out there and make the most of their winter wonderland!

While those three activities are some of the most popular snow sports PA residents enjoy each winter, there are plenty of other snow sports and activities that you can enjoy, too. Some of them may not be familiar to you. Others may be on your list but you haven’t experienced them yet. All of them can be enjoyed in most of your local Pennsylvania parks. 

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing in Pennsylvania has become extremely popular in the past few years. That’s because the walking trails and fields in your local parks provide awesome opportunities for snowshoeing when the conditions are right! 

This low-cost activity (most snowshoes cost $50-$100) is the perfect way for you to explore local parks’ landscapes, enjoy a great cardiovascular workout, and improve your overall well being during a time when most folks are cooped up indoors. Plus, snowshoes are less harmful to the park environment as they do not crush vegetation that’s buried deep beneath the snow. 

Fat Biking

If you think you can’t enjoy local park bike trails in the winter, then you haven’t been introduced to fat biking. The origins of this innovative approach to biking during snowy conditions can be traced back to Alaska. In order to bicycle over wintery terrain, Alaska residents outfitted their mountain bikes with extra wide tires for greater stability and traction. Over the years, this trend has caught on in the U.S. and in Europe. As a matter of fact, the trail at Erie PA’s Wintergreen Gorge was recently named as one of the best places for biking in the snow! 

Curling

You’ve seen it during the Winter Olympics, but have you ever enjoyed curling in your local park? One of the oldest team sports in the world, curling originated in 16-century Scotland. 

Here’s how it’s played. Using brooms, the players of one team sweep the ice in front of a large stone. This is done to create a path for the stone to slide more easily and reach its intended target to earn points. Although it sounds fairly simple, this sport is actually quite complex. Clearing a strong path for maximum stone sliding involves a great deal of skill, strategy and stamina (all of that sweeping takes a lot of upper arm strength not to mention balance).    

Igloo Building

Ok, this one isn’t really a snow sport, per se. But you’ll be able to enjoy a snowy good time in your local park and get some exercise while you’re at it. Plus, it’s an activity that can be enjoyed by PA residents of all ages. When your local park is buried in snow and ice, it’s the perfect opportunity to put all of your home improvement knowledge (and LEGO building skills) to practice building your own igloo. Then, after you’re done, you can crack open your thermos and enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate and watch the winter sunset.

Not only is igloo building a fun activity, it’s actually a very useful skill to hone. If you’re ever stranded outside in the snow, you can build an igloo to use as temporary shelter. 

So if you’re looking to spend more time outdoors this winter (even when snow has covered your town), head on over to your local park and enjoy one of these uncommon snow sports and activities! 

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Top Four Indoor Parks & Rec Activities You Can Enjoy This Winter

Just because the temperatures are lower and the days are shorter doesn’t mean you can’t stay active during the winter! Although you may not be aware, there is still plenty of fun to be had at your local parks and recreation facilities. That’s right! While your neighborhood may be covered in snow, your local parks and recreation team is still working hard to offer your community lots of cool indoor activities to enjoy. 

Below, you will find some of the most popular indoor activities that PA residents can participate in during the long winter months. 

Indoor Kickball

Can’t wait to play baseball or wiffle ball this spring? While we don’t recommend batting dingers indoors, you can do the next best thing: join an indoor kickball league! Perfect for kids (and adults who want to enjoy this schoolyard classic again), indoor kickball is a fun way to stay active, participate in a team sport, and beat the winter blues.  

Tai Chi

During the winter months, it’s extremely important to boost your immune system so your body can effectively fight off colds, flu and viruses. Reducing stress, staying mobile and enjoying better sleep quality all help support natural immunity and improve overall well being. And practicing Tai Chi can help you achieve all of those things.  

An ancient form of martial arts, Tai Chi is now predominantly practiced by folks of all ages who not only wish to maintain a strong immune system, but also improve their balance, mobility and agility, reduce the effects of stress and seasonal depression, enjoy better sleep, alleviate pain, and promote a more positive outlook. Many local PA rec centers offer beginner and multi-level classes during the winter months and throughout the year. 

Indoor Pickleball

We’ve discussed the joys of pickleball in a previous article about alternative outdoor activities, but now this fun recreational sport has moved indoors for winter! This all-ages approved combination of tennis, table tennis, and badminton can be easily transported to indoor tennis courts and gyms. In addition to scheduling indoor matches and tournaments during the winter, your local PA parks and recreation facility may even offer classes for pickleball beginners of all ages! 

Enroll In a Course

Speaking of classes, your local park center is not just a great resource for sports and recreational activities. It’s also a great place to learn, too! If you’re eager to spend your winter hours learning a new skill, craft or hobby, then your parks and recreation facility may be the best place to consider. Many centers offer a variety of courses and classes during the winter. Want to focus on your overall well being? Enroll in a fitness or exercise class. Want to learn more about technology? Take a class or two that focuses on computers, coding or web design. Indulge in your penchant for the arts by taking classes of dance, photography or illustration. You’ll be amazed at the quality of classes and courses offered at your local community centers. 

If winter weather has kept you home in the past, bundle up and head to your local rec center to enjoy lots of great indoor activities. With these activities, you’ll have a more active and enjoyable winter!   

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