How Can You Do “Good for PA”?

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!

 

 

National Bird Day: Meet Our State’s Favorite Feathered Friends

National Bird Day is a day to celebrate the different species in your state. What’s the name of that red one that shows up on your lawn? What about that brownish-blackish-spotted one you saw on your hike? The more you learn about the birds you see, the closer you’ll feel to nature, even the nature in your own backyard. And did you know it’s scientifically proven that bird watching relieves anxiety? Just Google “ornitherapy,” and you’ll see what I mean.

Once named “Penn’s Woods,” it’s no surprise that our state abounds with wooded areas for birds to call home. If you’re a city dweller in Philadelphia, the only birds you may think about are “Eagles” (go Birds!). But the truth is, PA is one of the most species–dense states in America–home to more than 435 different species. Beyond their songs, they benefit our forests in ways you may have not realized. So, in honor of National Bird Day, let’s meet a few of the feathered friends in our state.


The Ruffed Grouse

Silly-sounding in name but prestigious in title, the Ruffed Grouse is Pennsylvania’s state bird. The grouse is related to turkeys and is a year-round resident of our brushy young forests.

The bird is brown-feathered with white and black speckles across its head. What really makes the grouse unique is the very reason for the name. Around the neck, a male will display feathers, fluffed and full. It is nature’s warmest-looking scarf. Grouse, when not strutting the runway with an elaborate feather display, can be identified by the tuft of hair on their heads, messy like a bad hair day.

If you’re a patriotic Pennsylvanian and want a glimpse of our state bird, a great place to start is Hillman State Park, in Washington County. The park is a restored habitat made for the Ruffed Grouse. Looking to do more than see the Ruffed Grouse? So enamored with its fanciful neck collar and toupée-esque hairdo that you’re dying to help? The Ruffed Grouse population has been severely low from hunting. Visit the Ruffed Grouse Society website (https://ruffedgrousesociety.org) and make a donation or read about the conservation done to keep them safe.

The Mourning Dove

Don’t cry! The Mourning Dove is called that because of its monotone call: “OoOh coo coo coo.” Sound familiar?

Unlike something elusive like the Ruffed Grouse, the Mourning Dove loves a good telephone line, backyard, or weed-covered highway. While they’re closely related to the pigeon, they have differences. They’re like the pigeon’s cooler older cousin. (Sorry, pigeons.) Mourning Doves have golden bellies and a black spot next to their beak, a la Marilyn Monroe. That bird call? The one that sounds like weeping? That’s made by males to attract females. The ladies love it!

Mourning Doves do more than just hum funeral dirges; they also help the environment. By eating slugs and loose seeds instead of eating the seeds from a plant, they do little damage to the environment. While you can spot these doves on your way to work, they can also be found in state parks. Audubon has incredible conservation efforts to keep the Mourning Dove safe. Make a visit to Redtail Park or the John James Audubon Center and you’re sure to see one. Looking to play a part in helping these doves survive? Take part in the Audubon Birdathon! https://p2p.onecause.com/audubonbirdathon

The American Crow

The crow is judged by most humans (or at least by some superstitious folks) as bad luck. They remember faces and hold grudges, so never cross a crow. With their black feathers and smart brains, they’re basically the Wednesday Addams of birds. And they’d never be caught dead wearing white after Labor Day.

Crows also have acute senses of hearing. As a sentry bird, a crow stands guard while others feed, waiting to alert others if a stranger comes for a bite. Crows are opportunists with food. They are fond of eating carrion. But they aren’t only interested in carcasses. They’re omnivores, delighted by the taste of grains and insects.

While this is one bird you may not be interested in watching besides the unplanned sightings that make you shudder, their qualities are intriguing to learn –so much so that you may want to see them yourself! Visit Natural Lands’ Crow’s Nest Preserve in Elverson for some great viewing and trails. Unless you owe a crow money, and in that case, never show your face to them again.

The Northern Cardinal

You catch a glimpse of an unnatural red – so bright against the snow, that you’re astounded. That red flapping through the trees is bound to be a Northern Cardinal. Crimson with a black face, these birds are conspicuous. And while the color is one of its well-known features, only the male is red. Females are brownish with red-edged feathers.

Be wary of reflective surfaces. Cardinals experience periods of looking to mate (or cuffing season, as kids call it these days) and get aggressive. So much so that they’ll fly into windows and mirrors hoping to attack a competitor, which winds up being their reflection.

While the cardinal is the official bird of seven states; the oldest cardinal ever found was in Pennsylvania at 15 years of age! You may not have to leave the house to see this celebrity of a bird. They’re found flocking to bird feeders left in your backyard. Get some seeds and try to catch a glimpse of that red.

If you’d prefer to head into the outdoors to watch, the Peace Valley Park Nature Center in Bucks County is a great option. Cardinals are seen in low shrubbery so be extra sure to check those on your trip.  https://www.peacevalleynaturecenter.org

Bald Eagle

We couldn’t possibly leave out the Bald Eagle (not just because of those Philadelphia Eagles, honestly!) Their eyesight is the sharpest of any animal in the world, including us! This vision comes in handy when waiting on a branch to spot a fish in a stream. Soaring down at lightning speed, they scoop up a trout just like that.

They tear apart prey, mostly consisting of scavenged carcasses, like unwrapping a present. And as the country’s emblematic bird, they have a superiority complex when it comes to food. As a pirate of the forest, they will attack another bird if it has dinner that the eagle wants.

In honor of National Bird Day and Save The Eagles Day (January 10), making a trip to witness a Bald Eagle can be an enlightening experience. The Promised Land State Park in the Poconos Plateau is home to wintering eagles looking to be near mountains and open waters. Take a peek at what this park has to offer and be sure to not make any loud noises! (https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/PromisedLandStatePark/Pages/default.aspx)

Participating in National Bird Day can be as simple as learning about the birds seen in your neighborhood. Push yourself to take a trip to the park and see what you can find from the list. A ruffled-necked turkey-like bird? A grudge-holding black specter? Or even a red-feathered friend chasing down your bicycle mirror? You can even grab a bird pic for a perfect Insta post. Grab your camera and a pair of binoculars and head into the outdoors to celebrate Pennsylvania birds in all their majesty!

Local parks are a great place to start doing some bird watching. Fly over to our local park finder here:  https://maps.dcnr.pa.gov/localparks/

All photos contributed by Rick Fichter @Rick168tattoo@gmail.com https://www.168wildlife.com/

Rick Fichter, an accomplished wildlife photographer. He began his journey with photography in 1996, shooting for the Philadelphia Flyers and Phillies, and eventually transitioned into a professional nature photographer. Right now, he is focusing his efforts on photographing predatory birds, occasionally branching out to snare some shore birds as well.  He has a talent for capturing the powerful emotions of these majestic animals in vivid detail. His photographs of the American Bald Eagles are some of the most breathtaking images in circulation today.

His Images can be viewed or purchased on all social media @ 168wildlife

New Year, New Park-Related Resolutions

The end of the year is a great time to make a plan and work towards a healthier and happier 2023! Why not think about setting resolutions that you can achieve in your local parks and rec? Local parks and recreation offer so many great opportunities to enhance your health, get outdoors, connect with nature, and volunteer. They add value to your life and are the livelihood of your community.  Read on to see some examples of resolutions you can add to your list while incorporating your local Pennsylvania parks!

Pick up a new park-friendly hobby, like foraging
There are so many activities to explore at your local park, no matter what your interests are.  Spend an afternoon having a picnic with friends.  Commit to exploring a new trail or path once a month.  Bring your binoculars or magnifying glasses to take a closer look at the local wildlife.  Learn more about foraging for local food resources.  You may surprise yourself with what new hobbies you can learn.  Click here for a list of ideas.

Clean up your local park by picking up litter once a month

Picking up trash will make a huge difference in the appearance and vibe of your local park and will encourage others to maintain a pristine park. When picking up trash and debris, make sure to wear gloves to protect yourself, and put trash in appropriate receptacles or lawn bags.  Even a once-a-month commitment to cleaning up litter is a great way to care for your local environment, get some exercise, and inspire others to keep it clean!

Attend more community meetings, like Town Halls, and become a voice for your local parks
Maybe you love spending time at your local parks, but you’re concerned that they’re falling into disrepair, or that these green spaces aren’t receiving the necessary funding. By becoming a public parks advocate and supporting better conditions through your local government, you can be the change you want to see in your community.  Contacting your local elected officials may sound intimidating – but remember, they work for you!

Get outside to exercise – whether it’s walking a lap around your park or doing a few pull-ups on the monkey bars
If exercise is part of your routine, or if you’d like to incorporate it into your routine, save money on gym memberships and take advantage of your local parks!  Exercising outdoors provides all the physical benefits of indoor exercise (blood flow, improved cardiovascular health, improved strength, flexibility, endurance, etc.) and can also provide vital exposure to sunlight that increases important levels of vitamin D, unlike indoor exercise.  

Spend more quality time with your four-legged friend by exploring dog parks
It can be a great place for dogs to get some fun exercise and outdoor stimulation, which helps them relax when they get back home.  In addition to helping dogs learn how to socialize, you can also spend time getting to know other dog owners in your area.  As beneficial as walking your pet on a leash can be for you, letting Fido run free can be even more so, especially if you run along too. Visiting the park not only gets you out of the house, but it gives you a break from retracing the same steps in your neighborhood day in and day out.

Host a community gathering in your local park; get the neighborhood together for a good old-fashioned, potluck picnic
Nothing brings people together like food.  Host or co-host the ultimate potluck to share friendship, stories, and a good meal. No worries about cleaning up your house for guests when you can simply organize a gathering outside at your local park. 

 

Check out our Local Parks Finder to find local parks near you.

Stay in touch all year round and visit our website to sign up for our mailing list to stay up-to-date on all things local parks and recreation!

Ice Skating at your Local PA Park

Whether you’re lacing up skates for the first time or you’re an experienced skater looking to improve your technique, there are plenty of local parks throughout Pennsylvania which offer ice skating this season!  As the temperature continues to drop, get dressed in warm layers and head out to ice skate.  Natural ice is not usually as smooth as ice in a rink, but the views at your local parks can be spectacular.  Check out our list below for places to skate!

North Park Ice Rink, Allegheny County
From mid-November to mid-March, North Park in Allegheny County offers ice skating to residents and nonresidents. Skating tickets may be purchased online in advance.  Learn more here.  

Dilworth Park, Philadelphia
Dilworth Park is a public park and open space along the western side of City Hall in Center City, Philadelphia.  The rink will be open daily (including on Thanksgiving and Christmas) through February 26, 2023. Skating sessions are available in 90-minute time slots online.  Learn more here.  

Bethlehem, Northampton and Lehigh Counties
Visit the Municipal Ice Rink in Bethlehem, PA!  To view skating times or the calendar, visit their website.  Learn more here.

Roychester Park, Montgomery County
This 12.7 acre park is located on Cleveland, Corinthian and Harding Avenues, and is known for its many sports facilities – including natural outdoor skating!  Learn more here.  

Blue Spring Park, Centre County
Located right in the heart of central PA in Historic Boalsburg, Blue Spring Park offers a seasonal on ground ice rink for skating and hockey fans. Learn more here

Overlook Park, Lancaster County
The new ice-skating rink in Lancaster County is open now and will be running through Feb. 26, 2023.  The rink will be open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Fridays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  Learn more here.  

Callahan Park, McKean County
Callahan Ice Rink in Bradford, Pennsylvania is open seasonally from the first week of November to the first week of March.  Learn more here

Green Lane Park, Montgomery County
Among the beauty of the park, there is a smaller family-friendly section dedicated to ice skating when conditions permit. In addition to ice skating, winter lovers can cross-country ski, sled and ice fish.  Learn more here

Brady’s Run Park, Beaver County
The largest park in Beaver County, this park consists of nearly 2,000 acres including an outdoor skate park.  Learn more here

You can also find a list of state parks which offer ice skating here.

As you venture out onto the ice, here are some safety tips to keep in mind throughout the season!

Make sure your skates fit and the blades are sharp enough. Skates that are too big won’t give you enough ankle support, making it easier for you to lose your balance and fall, and can even put stress on your muscles and bones, making serious injury more likely. Skates that are too small can cause painful blisters, and prevent proper circulation in the feet.

Don’t be afraid to wear safety gear! Many people don’t wear safety gear like helmets, knee pads, wrist pads, or elbow pads—like they should when ice skating. But if you’d wear them when rollerblading or skateboarding, why wouldn’t you wear them when ice skating? Safety gear can make a huge difference in preventing injuries after falls when ice skating.

Stick to the basics. As impressive as it may be to see people performing tricks such as skating backward, spins, or jumps (even small bunny hops), don’t attempt these until you’ve mastered skating comfortably, which will usually take multiple visits to the rink. This also goes for games such as tag or other games likely to cause injury.

Keep space between you and other skaters. Novice skaters will often instinctively grab the closest person to them to prevent a fall, but this often results in both skaters crashing to the ice. To avoid injuring others, and to avoid becoming a victim to someone else’s fall, keep a safe distance between yourself and other skaters on the rink.

If you fall, try to get up or out of the way as quickly as you can. Other skaters will have a harder time seeing you when you’re on the ground, and inexperienced skaters will likely have a difficult time stopping or moving out of the way before colliding with you. The easiest way to get up from a fall is from a kneeling position.

Never let children skate unsupervised. Small children are at greater risk at ice rinks because they can be more easily knocked over and may not have as great a sense of balance as adults and teens. Make sure a capable adult who already knows how to skate is always nearby. Children should also skate to the outside of the rink where they can grab onto the handrail if necessary.

Stay safe, and happy skate season!

Check out our Local Parks Finder to find local parks near you.

Stay in touch all year round and visit our website to sign up for our mailing list to stay up-to-date on all things local parks and recreation!

Giving Thanks for DIY Natural Centerpieces

As the holidays approach, many of us begin to think about how we will decorate our homes for family gatherings around the table. If you’re looking for a unique and festive way to spruce up your dining room, why not try making your own natural-inspired centerpiece? Just visit your local park, gather up some leaves, acorns, berries, and pinecones, and use them to create a unique, colorful arrangement. 

One concept we love is the simplicity of some loosely layered greenery and warm, inviting candles. This is a great way to inject some natural beauty into your decor without going overboard. If you want to add a bit more color to your table, why not try adding some fruit to the mix? Apples, pears, and oranges always look lovely nestled in among the greenery. You could even add a few cranberries for a pop of red.

Another great way to add a touch of nature to your holiday decor is to incorporate bark and leaves into your centerpieces. Bark can easily be gathered from fallen branches and used to line the base of a vase or bowl. You can also add some small branches or twigs for extra texture and depth.  These materials are easy to find at your local parks – click here to find a park near you!

You can either use fresh or artificial leaves. If you choose to use fresh leaves, make sure to choose ones that are not wilted or brown. You can also spray them with a light coat of clear sealer to help them last longer.

After gathering bark and leaves, consider including acorns, berries, pinecones, or even nuts. You can also add some fall-themed ribbons or garland to really make your centerpiece pop. Be sure to play around with the arrangement until you find something that you love.

Not only will this DIY project save you money, but it will also give you a chance to get creative and have some fun. No matter what you choose to include in your natural centerpiece, the important thing is to have fun with it and make it your own. This is the perfect way to show your guests how much you appreciate their company, and it will definitely add a touch of elegance to your Thanksgiving feast. 

Take a look at some of these natural centerpieces for inspiration:

Stay in touch all year round and visit our website to sign up for our mailing list to stay up-to-date on all things local parks and recreation!

Tips for Visiting Your Local Park During Hunting Season

Visiting your local park during hunting season can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise. In Pennsylvania, nearly all of the state parks have designated hunting lands totaling over four million acres. Since peak hunting season overlaps with Thanksgiving when many families are enjoying the outdoors together, it is extra important to be aware of the dangers. Every year, there are accidents involving hunters and hikers who are unaware of each other’s presence in the same area. In order to avoid any potential problems, it is important to follow a few simple guidelines.

  • One of the most important things you can do to stay safe is to make sure you are visible to hunters. Wearing bright colors or fluorescent orange will help ensure that you are seen by those around you. This will help reduce the chances of an accident occurring. 
  • As always, it’s important to leave no trace behind. That means picking up  all of your trash, including any wrappers. If you see any litter while you’re out and about, please do your part to pick it up and dispose of it properly. By keeping our parks clean, both humans and animals can enjoy them for years to come. 
  • Also, make sure you are obeying all park signage. Hunting areas should be clearly marked and completely separate from recreational facilities. 

 

If you are planning on hunting yourself, you may be considering deer. It’s one of the most popular hunting activities in Pennsylvania and it helps maintain healthy state parks by managing the deer population. Regardless of what you set out to hunt, make sure you have a current Pennsylvania hunting license from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Other tips to keep in mind:

 

  • Be sure to keep your gun unloaded until you are ready to shoot. This will help ensure the safety of those around you and prevent any accidents.

  • If you are carrying your gun in a case, be sure that the case is properly secured so that the gun cannot be discharged accidentally.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings and be sure to look out for other hunters, hikers, and picnickers. Be respectful of those who are already using recreational space.

By following these simple guidelines, you can help make hunting season a safe and enjoyable time for all.

Stay in touch all year round and visit our website to sign up for our mailing list to stay up-to-date on all things local parks and recreation!

Park and Recreation Urban Exchange: Nov. 2, 2022

Nov. 2, 2022 – 9:00 AM – 2:30 PM
Lancaster, PA

On Wednesday, November 2nd, the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society (PRPS) and the Lancaster Recreation Commission, is hosting an Urban Exchange for parks and recreation professionals and champions to address issues around parks’ role in serving urban communities.  Highlights for the PRPS Youth Listening Tour will be shared along with a presentation on generating revenue to support your agency. The exchange will also feature consultant-led roundtables on topics important to urban recreation, including:

  • Human Resources: Promoting a diverse workforce
  • Engaging neighborhoods – How to solicit input and follow it
  • Making all welcome in parks and agencies
  • Child and Afterschool Care in park and recreation programs
  • Partnership development and advocacy

Speakers from Temple University, the PA Recreation and Park Society, Lancaster Recreation, the Outdoor Inclusion Coalition, and other organizations will share information, personal stories, and ideas related to these topics.

The event is scheduled from 9:00 AM to 2:30 PM at the Lancaster Recreation Center, 525 Fairview Avenue in Lancaster, PA, 17603. A $10.00 charge for attendees includes morning refreshments, lunch, and all sessions. This event is eligible for .3 CEUs. Register Here or call PRPS at 814-234-4272.

Animal-Watching in Autumn

Fall can be a very exciting time for animal-watching. Just as humans swap out their summer clothes for warm clothes, animals prepare for colder weather as well. During the fall months, many furry animals work on growing in their warmer winter coats to prepare for the cold months ahead. Mammals spend the autumn months storing up fat to keep them warm during the winter. Other animals prepare to migrate and fly to a new, warmer place. And many others go through mating rituals in the fall. As you observe these animal activities this season, here are some tips and techniques for animal watching in our beautiful state.

Tips for Watching Animals

Face into the wind when looking for wildlife. Many animals have a keen sense of smell, and the wind can carry your scent and scare them off. Don’t wear perfume or anything with a strong scent, like shampoo or lotion, or animals will pick up your scent!

Plan to watch animals during dusk or dawn. The best times for observing most animals are early in the morning and in the evening. Overcast days are also good times for observing many species.

Do not disturb. Even when you’re farther away, leaving wildlife alone can help your viewing experience—plus it’s the law. It’s illegal to feed, touch, tease, frighten, or intentionally disturb wildlife. Remember that wildlife in parks are wild and can be unpredictable when they’re disturbed or surprised. Interacting with wildlife also can cause harm to both people and the wildlife.

Be observant of your surroundings. Walking slowly through an area helps you learn about habitat, trail systems, waterways, and wildlife movements. Go slowly, pausing often to scan the area and to listen. Tracks, trails, nests, dens, droppings, and partially eaten plants are clues to what animals may live in the area.

Try to be as quiet as possible. Keep talking to a minimum and use hand signals whenever you can. Step lightly to avoid breaking twigs underfoot and turn off your cell phone. Whether you’re searching for wildlife or observing it, you’ll be more successful if you rely on more than just your eyes. Listen for cracking twigs or branches, animal calls, or the flutter of birds’ wings to help you locate animals.

Bring binoculars and/or a magnifying glass. Binoculars are an outstanding tool to watch animals from afar. There’s also a micro-world of small creatures all around. Use a magnifying glass to study a dragonfly, ladybug, or ant colony.

Most importantly, be patient. Find a good spot and be prepared to wait.
Sometimes you will see more by sitting quietly for a while and just waiting for an animal to come in front of you. Waiting may sound like a boring thing to do, but waiting in nature is often both relaxing and more rewarding than you expect.

Animals to look for in the fall

Pennsylvania is a land of diverse ecosystems between the state’s mountains, dense forests, grasslands, hills, and wetlands. Below is a list of just some of the animals to keep an eye out for in the fall!

Elk. Elk, Pennsylvania’s largest wild animal, are very commonly found in the state – often in forests or on the roadside. Visitors can easily see the majestic elk in parts of Elk and Cameron counties.

Foxes. Red and gray foxes are small, agile carnivores belonging to the same family (Canidae) as the dog, coyote, and wolf. Both red and gray foxes are found throughout all counties of Pennsylvania. They are intelligent predators with extremely sharp senses of sight, smell, and hearing (a fox can hear a mouse squeal from about 150 feet).

River Otters. The river otter is the most elusive aquatic mammal in Pennsylvania, so you’ll be lucky to spot one! By autumn, otter pups are nearly fully grown. In Pennsylvania, otters occur in every major river system and are absent only in watersheds with significant water-quality problems. Clean water supporting fish and other aquatic life is the foundation of a good otter habitat.

Weasels. Three weasel species occur in Pennsylvania: the short-tailed weasel, also called the ermine, Bonaparte’s weasel, and stoat; the long-tailed weasel, also known as the New York weasel; and the least weasel, or mouse weasel. In Pennsylvania, the short-tailed weasel is found mostly in the northern and eastern parts, the long-tailed is common throughout the state, and the least is found in greatest numbers in the south central and north west.

Owls. Autumn is a great time to keep an eye out for any of the eight species of owls that live in Pennsylvania. The most common of these owls to be seen in our state is the Great Horned Owl, also the most common species in North America. From forests to open country to even cities, the Great Horned Owl can live in practically any habitat.

 

 

White-tailed deer. The white-tailed deer, Pennsylvania’s state animal, flourishes in forests across Pennsylvania. They are mostly found in the eastern and western region of Pennsylvania and often live in wooded areas. Autumn is mating season for white-tailed deer, and oftentimes male deer will “spar” each other with their antlers.

Porcupines. The porcupine is a solitary animal for most of the year, but between September and December, it seeks out other porcupines for mating. In Pennsylvania, most porcupines live in areas of extensive forests. They inhabit the rugged mountains of north central Pennsylvania, the timbered land in the northwest and northeast corners, and the wooded sections of the ridge-and-valley region.

Snow hare. Although closely related to the more abundant cottontail, the snowshoe is not a true rabbit. Snow hares are found in Pennsylvania in parts of the Allegheny Mountains, and on high plateaus in the northwest and the Pocono region. In the fall, the hares shed their brown summer fur in preparation for the winter snow.

 

Ruffed Grouse. The ruffed grouse, a smallish brown-and-tan bird, has been Pennsylvania’s official state bird since 1931, and its beauty is admired by hunters and non-hunters alike. They are found in every county in Pennsylvania, most often in forests and woods.

Where to find wildlife

You may not have to go far to see wildlife in Pennsylvania, but some best places to find untouched wildlife are the numerous parks and refuges across the state. Below is a list of some of the places to check out wildlife in Pennsylvania.

Ohiopyle State Park, which covers some 19,000 acres in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania, is a popular kayaking and water rafting destination. Amid the hiking trails and scenic waterfalls, visitors can expect to find plenty of deer, turkey, grouse, badgers, foxes, rodents, and other wildlife.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which covers some 66,000 acres of the Pocono Mountains in the southeast, has some 100 miles of hiking trails, where you can find rabbits, deer, rodents, and possibly even the elusive black bear.

Cherry Springs State Park, located in Potter County of north central Pennsylvania, is a prime destination for campers, hikers, and stargazers. Deer, otters, fishers, ospreys, hawks, nightjars, eagles, badgers, and black bears are all found here.

Pymatuning State Park, located in the northeast of the state near the town of Crawford, covers around 21,000 acres of a manmade lake. The waters are teeming with largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegill, walleye, carp, crappies, and other freshwater fish. It is open to fishing all year-round.

Presque Isle State Park, situated on some 3,000 acres of land around Lake Eerie, is a US National Natural Landmark. It’s also widely regarded as one of the best bird-watching sites in the state. Piping plovers, cerulean warblers, terns, sparrows, blackbirds, and gulls are all found here.

Nockamixon State Park, located to the north of Philadelphia, is another good destination for bird-watching and freshwater fishing. More than 250 species of birds have been documented at the park, including orioles, warblers, swans, grebes, sandpipers, herons, kingfishers, ospreys, wrens, grosbeaks, and egrets.

 

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Fall in Love with PA Parks

Fall is an amazing time to be in the state of Pennsylvania, and an even better time to explore our parks! There’s no shortage of fall fun in the parks of the Keystone State – from hearing ghost stories during spooky night hikes, to enjoying fresh apple cider at fall festivals, to carving pumpkins with family and friends, and so much more. While there are dozens of great events in the state which celebrate the autumn season, here are a few which are taking place in our beautiful state parks (listed by county). Make sure you save or screenshot our fall Bingo card below and share photos with us on Instagram (@goodforpa / #goodforpa) to show what activities you’re participating in to celebrate!

Click to enlarge & download PDF.

 

Events for Kids of All Ages

Cameron County / Potter County
What: First Fork Festival
Where: Sinnemahoning State Park
When: October 8, 2022

Celebrate the history and culture of the First Fork Sinnemahoning Valley with local authors, artists and artisans showcasing their talents amidst a backdrop of full autumn color. The 2022 line-up will include music, local history and interactive programs, live demonstrations, local authors, artists, and craftspeople, as well as food and drink vendors. Learn more.

 

Centre County
What: Punkin’ Chunkin’ Fall Festival
Where: Bald Eagle State Park
When: October 22, 2022

Every year towards the end of October, the Howard Fire Company holds a one day festival at the scenic Bald Eagle State Park in Howard, PA. The main attractions of the festival are the catapults, trebuchets, and (possibly) air cannons that launch pumpkins hundreds of feet through the air and send them splashing down into the nearby lake. The festival is free. Any money donated during the festival will go towards supporting the Howard Fire Company #14 and future Punkin’ Chunkin’ Fall Festivals. Learn more.

Crawford County
What: Conneaut Lake’s Fall Pumpkin Fest
Where: Conneaut Lake Park
When: October 14, 15, and 16

Conneaut Lake’s Fall Pumpkin Fest is a family-oriented festival featuring rides, loads of food, crafts, and entertainment! Make sure to arrive before the Giant Pumpkin drops, and then enjoy delicious food, exciting rides, and great activities for kids of all ages. Learn more.

 

Monroe County
What: 9th Annual Trunk or Treat
Where: Resica Park
When: October 22, 2022

Come out for a scary good time at the 9th Annual MST Trunk or Treat! Decorate the trunk of your car, and then children ages 12 and under can dress up and go from car to car to collect their treats safely. Other activities include sand art, spin art, face painting, and children can get a pumpkin from their patch! Cash prizes will be offered for the best decorated cars. Registration is required for vehicles. Learn more.

What: Halloween Movie Night in the Park (Hocus Pocus)
Where: Chestnuthill Township Park
When: October 8, 2022

The Sanderson sisters have been gone for over 300 years. This October they will be making a return on the big screen at Chestnuthill Township Park! Bring a blanket or chair and settle in for an adventure with Dani, Max, Allison, and Thackery Binx as they try to defeat the Sanderson sisters. Learn more.

 

Montgomery County
What: Autumn Festival
Where: William F. Maule Park
When: October 15, 2022

Head to Montgomery Township’s Autumn Festival for the day, and enjoy fireworks at night! The festival will feature amusements, a beer and wine garden, business and craft vendors, face painting, food vendors, live music, a petting zoo, pony rides, pumpkin decorating, scarecrow making, magic shows, and more! Learn more.

 

Perry County
What: Little Buffalo Apple Festival
Where: Little Buffalo State Park
When: October 15, 2022

Join for an afternoon of food, fun, entertainment, and of course, Shoaff’s Mill! See the mill grind corn as it did for over 100 years, witness demonstrators such as spinners and weavers, and sample fresh pressed apple cider, warm apple butter, and fresh baked cornbread. Learn more.

 

Susquehanna County
What: Trunk or Treat
Where: Kennedy Park
When: October 29, 2022

Forrest City Parks and Recreation will be sponsoring Trunk or Treat and a costume contest for children in the area! Decorate the trunk of your car, and then children can dress up and go from car to car to collect their treats safely. Learn more.

 

Westmoreland County
What: Halloween Parade & Trick-or-Treat
Where: Lynch Field Park
When: October 31, 2022

Wear your best costume and join the City of Greensburg’s Recreation Department as they kick-off the 2022 Halloween festivities with a Halloween Parade at Lynch Field, followed by Trick-or-Treat in the City! Learn more.

 

Spooky Halloween Activities

Beaver County
What: Halloween Night Hike
Where: Raccoon Creek State Park
When: October 22, 2022

Venture along the dark and spooky trails while you listen to and try to see the creatures of the night. Hikers will also learn about the park’s wildlife and hear a few ghost stories related to the park. Remember to bring a flashlight! This hike is about one mile and slower paced to be family friendly. No registration needed. Learn more.

Berks County
What: Haunted Hollow Hayride and Barn
Where: Jim Dietrich Park
When: October 7, 8, and 9

Get ready for the thrill of a scary hayride along the Schuylkill River! Be careful though – you don’t know who’s hiding behind the trees or in the fields! After your hayride, go on a scary adventure through various passageways of the haunted barn. You don’t know what or who will pop out to scare you to your core. Be prepared for a fright! Learn more. Learn more.

 

5ks and Walks

Bedford County
What: Bedford County Fall Foliage Classic
Where: Shawnee State Park
When: October 8, 2022

The Fall Foliage Classic is a race that includes a 5K Walk, 5K Run, 10K Run, and 5K Fun Walk through Shawnee State Park. Join to walk, run, and take in the beautiful scenery of Bedford County. The race is held in conjunction with the 58th Annual Fall Foliage Festival. Learn more.

 

Somerset County
What: Fall Foliage Hike
Where: Laurel Ridge State Park
When: October 15, 2022

Join for a five mile hike on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. Hikers will stop by a scenic overlook to take in the famous fall color of PA’s Laurel Highlands. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a trail lunch! Learn more.

 

Delaware County
What: Bark in the Park Dog Walk and 5K Run & Fall Festival
Where: Rose Tree Park
When: October 22, 2022

Bring your furry friends out for this fun day that includes a dog-friendly walk followed by a fall festival. Festival activities include a vaccine and microchipping clinic, dog contests, pet portraits, local business vendors, raffle baskets, music, arts and crafts and much more! Learn more.

 

Stay in touch all year round and sign up for our mailing list to stay up-to-date on all things local parks and recreation!

 

Fun Fall Nature Activities You Can Enjoy In Local PA Parks

 

The end of summer doesn’t mean that all of the outdoor fun is over, too! There are still plenty of ways to get outside and enjoy yourself in your local parks, neighborhood and even your own backyard.

Here are three enjoyable and enlightening nature activities that you can do during the fall!

Practice Leaf Pressing

Before trees shed their leaves for winter, they fill our parks with an array of bright colors! A walk through the park reveals a wealth of hues that range from golden yellows to deep ambers to bright scarlets – and various shades that lie somewhere in between.

Though this colorful display is fleeting, you can capture its essence with an easy and enjoyable activity: leaf pressing.

First, you’ll want to go on a “leaf hunt” in your backyard, neighborhood or local park. This is where you’ll select and gather the leaves you want to press.

Before you gather your leaves, be sure to follow this helpful hints:

  • Do not pick leaves off of the trees. They’re still in the midst of their life cycle. Choose leaves that have already fallen on the ground.
  • Select leaves that are flat and not curling. Curled leaves are more difficult to press. Plus they’re more susceptible to damage during the pressing process.
    Inspect the leaves to make sure they are free of insects or mold.
  • Avoid selecting leaves that are moist. These leaves are more difficult to press.
  • Schedule your leaf hunting for dry days free from rain and lots of moisture.

While it’s ok to take leaves that have fallen in local parks, taking mementos from National Parks is prohibited. Remember: when visiting protected areas leave nothing but footprints.

To make your leaf hunt extra fun and informative, try to identify the various leaves you collect. There are a couple of different ways to do this. Using a field guide is the old school way to identify leaves and trees. However, the more tech-driven approach is to rely on an application to help with leaf identification needs.

Once you’ve gathered your leaves, it’s time to start pressing them.
Here’s what you’ll need to perform proper pressing:

  • Multiple sheets of paper (printer paper works well)
  • A very heavy book (the bigger and heavier the book the better)
  • Additional books or heavy objects for additional weight

Now that you’ve assembled the necessary materials and tools, you can start pressing your leaves:

  • Fold a sheet of paper in half
  • Arrange your leaves on one side of the folded paper. (Helpful Hint: Be sure not to put too many leaves on the sheet. You don’t want the leaves to touch or fold during pressing).
  • Fold the other side of the paper to secure the leaves.
  • Place the folded paper with the leaves in the middle of your large, heavy book.
  • Add extra books or weights on top of the pressing book.
  • Keep your pressing books in a dry area of your home that’s out of the way.

Occasionally check your leaves to make sure they are dying properly.

The entire pressing process varies from leaf-to-leaf. Some leaves only require a few days. Others may require a week or two.

After your dried and pressed leaves are ready, it’s time for you to decide how you wish to display them.

If you’re interested in preserving them for years to come, displaying your leaves in a quality picture frame is the best way to do so.

Still, you may want to be a bit more creative with your pressed leaves.

Here are just a few creative ways you can use your pressed leaves:

  • Create an autumn wreath for your door.
  • Make a centerpiece for your dining room table or Thanksgiving feast.
  • Add leaves to a coffee table with glass inserts
  • Fill bowls and baskets with the leaves for subtle fall accents around your home.
  • Include them with greeting cards that you mail to family and friends.
  • Trace animal shapes over the leaves, cut them out, and create a variety of decor to display in your windows.Once you get the hang of leaf pressing, you’ll want to do it every fall. Not only will you discover more about nature, you’ll also discover new ways to use and display your pressed leaves!

Make a Nature Mandala

What fall activity combines elements of a scavenger hunt with outdoor fun and learning about nature to create a beautiful piece of art?

Making nature mandalas!

If you’re unfamiliar with nature mandalas, they’re pieces of temporary art that incorporate elements of nature to symbolize the circle of life. Inspired by the ancient mandala symbol, these creations are a wonderful way to explain the changing seasons to children and dazzle friends and neighbors with your natural artistic skills.

To make your nature mandala, you’ll need to find the perfect spot to display your final creation. Front yards and backyards are perfect spots around your household. However, if you wish to display your finished nature mandala in a public spot like a local park, be sure to find an area that won’t disrupt the visitors’ enjoyment.

Next, you’ll gather all of the natural materials you wish to include in your design. Since mandalas take the form of a circle composed of repeating patterns, your design requires multiples of the same types of leaves, twigs, pinecones, stones, pebbles, acorns, berries, branches, flowers and other elements you wish to include.

For the middle of the mandala, you need to choose a natural element that represents the unifying center of the design. In other words, it’s the essential element that connects all of the other elements in the design.

Once the center of your mandala is in place, begin to add your other elements around it. Start in the center of the mandala and work your way out. For example, if the center of your mandala is a small tree branch, then the first circular pattern could be composed of several leaves from that tree. Your next, slightly larger circular pattern could be an array of berries found on the tree. You can finish your design with a larger pattern made of pine cones.

Whatever natural elements you wish to include, the result is a piece of organic, temporary art that defines and highlights the beauty of the changing seasons.

Keep a Nature Journal

If you prefer to express yourself with words instead of images and arts, then nature journaling is the perfect fall activity for you!

Like any journal or diary, a nature journal allows you to record your thoughts, observations and feelings about the natural world. Not only is nature journaling a great way to document your interaction with nature, it also helps instill calmness, boost self confidence and improve your cognitive abilities. Best of all, nature journaling encourages you to slow down and enjoy each moment.

Plus, nature journaling is an outdoor activity that you can enjoy all year long.
If you’re eager to start nature journaling you’ll first need a dedicated journal with lots of pages and pencil or pen.

Once you have your journal and pen, take it with you wherever you go. Nature is everyone. Whether you’re walking your dog, raking leaves, visiting the park or just looking out your window, you’ll see something that’s worth writing about.

Use your nature journal to:

  • Record what you see, hear, smell or feel during the moment.
  • Document the date, time and location of your various observations.
  • Include drawings, photos, leaf pressings, tree rubbings and other elements that help tell your story.
  • Include lists of the wildlife, trees and plants that you see and encounter along the way.Nature journaling is an enjoyable and illuminating way to connect with nature and yourself!

    Learn More About Nature Activities

    Leaf pressing, nature mandalas and nature journaling are not the only outdoor activities you can enjoy during the fall – or any time of the year! There are plenty of other activities that incorporate the natural world for you to discover and enjoy – and we often spotlight them right here!
    If you’d like to learn more about fun activities like these, simply subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter!