The Edible Forest: Can I eat that?

The forest keeps an abundance of creatures alive and kicking every day. With its plentiful resources, it’s not a surprise that it can keep us humans alive and kicking as well. But only if you know where to look.

Whether you’re looking to scavenge the forest for your grocery shopping list, live off the land while camping, or even prepare yourself like a wilderness scout in case of emergency, nature’s kitchen has plenty of bounty to offer. It’s important to know what’s okay to ingest and what’s not. So put on your aprons and bug spray, and get ready to (safely) forage for a meal on the wild side.

An Affair of Fungi Fares
There’s a fungus among us … and it may or may not be poisonous. A feast from the fungi family can be delicious and healthy. The forest can be an incredible place to scour for a mushroom meal, but it's also important to understand that even “safe to eat” often means “once cooked” as opposed to raw, so get your research in before ingesting. PA has incredible communities built around mushroom foraging and education. Check out the Pennsylvania Foragers Club and the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club.

Safe: Oyster Mushrooms and Chanterelles
One of the more common mushrooms found in Pennsylvania (and one you could quite easily grow yourself!) is the Oyster Mushroom.

Raw oyster mushrooms are often a creamy, ivory white with ruffled or scalloped edges. They grow in large clumps that spread in a trail along the trunks of dead deciduous trees. Oysters are also actually noted as having a faint licorice smell. Yum!

While Oyster mushrooms are more conservative in style, Chanterelles are bold and funky. Great for beginning foragers, these shrooms boast a bright orange color and a flower-esque
funnel shape, making them easy to spot. While they emit a fruity aroma, they’ve got a bit of a kick with their slight peppery taste. Double yum! They tend to call ivy their homes, scattered around coniferous forests.

Mushroom lovers already know a dozen ways to prepare them, but there are plenty of great recipes. Try a stir fry – or maybe a sauté with garlic and butter. has created a comprehensive list of some of the most delicious mushroom recipes.

Not Safe: The Death Cap and The Fool’s Funnel
Aptly named, the Death Cap is the deadliest known mushroom to humans and accounts for about 90% of mushroom poisonings worldwide, but also is an invasive species that is becoming more and more common within the U.S.

Since this shroom can be easily confused with edible fungi such as field and paddy straw mushrooms, so how do you know? Unfortunately, there’s no skull and crossbones warning on them—but look for a crowded white layer of gills underneath, a skirt-like membrane at the top of the stalk, and a sticky, residue-leaving layer on the mushroom’s cap (yes, they are safe to touch – just not to eat). Yuck.

The Fool’s Funnel is less common, but just as treacherous. This white-gilled fungus is often identified through its cap blotchiness and often upturned shape, hence the funnel title. They also often grow in what are called “fairy rings.” But do not let the ethereal name “fool” you, as any fairy ring of Fool’s Funnel is a dangerous one.

One thing early Pennsylvanians didn’t have was an online list of mushrooms. Luckily, we have several. INaturalist  features a Pennsylvania Fungi Checklist that covers all the mushrooms that can be found in the state. Be sure to check out the details and pictures and get to know your mushrooms before eating. And PennLive shares a list of seven mushrooms that will kill you. Definitely worth reading.

Nature’s Berry Buffet
What is a hike without a quick snack hanging from a bush here and there? And what about a warm piece of toast without a slab of fresh fruit jelly? Berry foraging is a fun activity that can easily lead to an enormous number of other activities. Make a marmalade, create house decor with berries, or maybe make it a family affair and turn them into natural paint right in front of your children’s eyes. Just don’t use the poisonous ones, please!

Safe: Elderberries
Elderberries, deep purple and perfectly circular with red stems, are somewhat of
a superfruit. Not only is their tart taste perfect for juices and jams once cooked, but their compounds are a famous cure-all. Known to aid in colds and flus, the berry’s many vitamins boost your immune system. It works double time – also protecting your heart and relieving stress. You’ll find these tasty, healthy berries, where else but on an elderberry tree, which oddly enough looks more like a shrub.


Not Safe: Holly
Ho ho NO! They may be perfect for holiday decorating, holly berries are
poisonous to people and pets, so be sure to remove them from boughs when decorating. After eating only two berries, a person can develop some pretty severe symptoms that are not very holiday friendly. With bright cherry red with pointy sharp leaves, they’re pretty easy to spot. Funnily enough, they grow best when not in cold, wintry environments. So why are they such a staple of Christmas? Birds & Bloom gives the full history.



Plant Provender’s and Flower Fodder

Whether or not you’re a herbivore, you’ve got to admit that almost nothing beats the freshness and feel of greens. Flowers too? Oh, yes. People often forget that many flowers are edible as well (for me, nothing beats the sweet and floral taste of honeysuckle in the spring!), but just like mushrooms or berries, those unassuming of leaves, pods, and petals can be poisonous.

Safe: Dandelions
Never eaten a dandelion? Don’t know what part to eat? Try all of it—from the stem to the leaves, down to the very petals of the flower. That bright butter yellow is easy to find in almost any forest or park. And the health benefits are astounding— packed with vitamins, they’ve been known to help with stomach and liver complaints!

Blanche the leaves and use them as garnishes in salad or boil them into a soup, even use the pollen to add some pizzazz to an omelet. But what about those petals? Tea lovers may want to make dandelion wineCurious what other plants can be used in a summer wine? Try lavender, lilacs, lilies, and tulips!

Not Safe: Wisteria & The Virginia Creeper
The wisteria is tempting, to say the least. Its purple dangling petals, falling into the shape of grape bundles, make it look like a fairytale flower. But unfortunately, every part of this plant is unsafe to eat. The fragrant velvety seed pods seem as if they would be edible, but can easily cause nausea, or worse.

More green than floral, the Virginia Creeper is an ivy that although decorative, is not delicious – particularly the leaves and the berries. The creeper grows in leaves of three and contains oxalate crystals, which cause nausea and stomach pain after ingesting. You know what they say, “Leaves of three, let it be; leaves of five, let it thrive!”




So, next time you’re on the trail in a local PA park, or anywhere, grab a fresh, tasty snack, courtesy of nature, but only if you’re safe about how you snack. There are plenty of resources to find out how to forage, where to find what, and how to identify if something is safe to ingest. It’s important to always check before eating. An incredible and all-encompassing resource to foraging in Pennsylvania is The PA Eats Guide to Foraging.

Check it out before scavenging your local park for a meal. Bon apetit!

A poem as lovely as a tree…

Guest blogger, Kimberly Frost

My surname mandated a mastered reading of the beloved Robert Frost poem A Tree at My Window. The poet depicts an adoration for the presence of this life force in vicinity to where he lay his head at night, and not even a curtain should come between them.

Joyce Kilmer wrote “I think that I shall never see. A poem lovely as a tree.” When I recently read about 900 some odd trees being eviscerated in a PA town, I took pause. I read and reread the article and have yet to understand the justification of such a large-scale demolition, or the acceptance that new plantings were a viable substitute. Public safety is a concern and proper tree maintenance is paramount. The ash trees have nearly been obliterated by a bug, and the fungus that has claimed so many oak trees was, and still is, devastating. The reduction of forests plagues communities and results in a global issue as carbon emissions and flooding increase. I recently posted on LinkedIn that I don’t feel the removal of old growth trees should ever be called “development”. I don’t believe that progress can consider itself positive unless it aligns with the existing eco system. The massive renovation of a NYC east side park laid claim to trees that were as old as the city itself. There is not a single person who experienced that park that would concede to the removal of those trees. The decision was short sighted and selfish, benefiting only those who were compensated from the plan. I cannot write a poem, but I can highlight a great line, “There comes a time in your life where you will choose what is hard or what is easy.” – Professor Dumbledore. The emphasis for that park’s renovation was storm water and elevation. What better accomplice to assist than massive old trees that could have continued to grow higher and higher had their roots been left intact?  If the extensive root system and shadows cast do not align with the cookie cutter park prototype, then it should be rewritten.

The parks and open spaces of Pennsylvania serve as a refuge and a return to nature. The intermingling of sterile manufactured playgrounds was replaced with the wandering into the wilderness. It was needed and overdue. As generations drift further and further away from understanding and experiencing the outdoors the baseline understanding of horticulture, botany and forestry ceases to exist. The visceral experience of the wind through leaves in a quiet forest and the changing tapestry of the landscape encourages stewardship and advocacy for the beacons that are trees. The significance of trees needs to be comprehended for generations to come and trees must be a priority in city planning and approved development in Pennsylvania.

More and more monetization of credits to offset carbon emissions will entice parcel owners to lease their tree growth to companies needing to offset their own carbon score. Hopefully this will secure trees existence by creating a new value for them in the corporate community. The company I work for has a business model built around the recycling process of wood waste, but I never want to prosper at the cost of tearing down a healthy tree, let alone a cluster or forest.

There are children that my son goes to school with that have never climbed a tree. They either have no trees or open spaces nearby or the trees in their neighborhood were quaffed with mulch volcanoes under them. The trees that offered climbing branches lured a child close enough, only to be scolded by a nearby adult telling them to “Get down. It’s not safe.” The safety of the air and water void of the adequate number of trees contributing homes to pollinators, oxygen and filtration should be a greater concern. Let them climb. Let them fall. Let them climb again.

Planting a tree can mark a milestone and chart a lifetime. I couldn’t find any poems specifically about that, but I can share resources that may inspire advocacy:

  • The children’s book A Carpenter’s Gift shares the true story of how a poor family’s planted tree eventually lit up Rockefeller Center.
  • The glorious animated film “The Man Who Planted Trees” is based on the story of the work of one individual and how many lives his plantings touched and improved.
  • Arbor Day still exists! Visit to find out how you can help with their goal of planting 500 million trees by 2027.

While my romance about trees may not be inspiring, science continues to render results. Scientists are studying how, not if, trees communicate through mycelium. Trees recognize their relatives, favoring them with carbon exchange. I think of the tree huggers of the 60’s and 70’s who were met with scoffs and eye rolls. They were ahead of their time.

So, I encourage we all go climb a tree, hug a tree, plant a tree, or sit under one and write a poem!


Prepping for Your PA Park Road Trip

A good playlist, a pack of tissues, and some yummy snacks. Sure, these are all essentials for dealing with a bad breakup, but they’re also some of the best things to have with you on a long road trip. As the weather starts to warm, the sun sets later each day, and vacation time appears just in reach, you may be considering your next park-themed getaway, and the upcoming Good For PA Road Trip throughout the state will have an abundance of travel ideas and incredible stops.

Open road, windows down, and exploring all that nature has to offer can seem like an adventurous and free-spirited way to spend a trip, but it’s important to plan ahead. Whether you’re going solo or joined by family, friends, or backseat drivers, you ’ll want a few tips on how to have a great time while keeping the crew safe. So fuel up (you and your car!) and get ready to road-trip in good style with the following essential tools.

1. Getting the Show (aka Your Car) On the Road
If you’re taking a road trip, you’re going to need a car – but there’s a reason they don’t call cars “a man’s best friend.” It’s important to be ready for every and any variable that could bring your trip to a halt, and that includes making sure your car is ready for the trip. The extra prep could come in handy for anything from a  dead battery to almost hitting Bigfoot with your car. The possibilities are endless. Trust us, you’re going to want to have tools at your disposal.

The first things to do should happen before even setting your butt into the driver’s seat. Your car has been recently inspected to ensure safe driving without a hitch. Check. You’ve got your driver’s license, of course, and your car’s registration on hand. Check, check. A flashlight, an extra tire, and extra gas. Check, check, check.

Finally, one of the most essential parts to any road trip is having roadside assistance as an available lifeline in case of  emergencies. AAA is a staple for any religious car owner and roadtripper and could be the very thing that gets you out of a jam and back into the vacation fun. You may also have roadside assistance with your vehicle brand or auto insurance. Check, check, check, and check.

2. Planning for the Potty
Some of us may know from experience, but “going to the bathroom” on the side of the road is less than ideal, not to mention illegal. So, to avoid any misdemeanors and just plain uncomfy situations, potty-planning for a road trip should be one of the first orders of business. Along with your park, food, and tourist stops pinned and planned on your map, locate some of the rest stops you’ll be driving by for those “just in case” moments, especially if you’re traveling with children.

Some rest stops even feature special amenities and activities that could make a bathroom break worthwhile. From early spring to late fall, the New Stanton, Allentown, and Sideling Hill Service Plazas have outdoor farmer’s markets with genuine Pennsylvania farm products. Don’t miss the “Keystone Truck Stop and Restaurant” in Loretto for a potty break. The website,, named it the best trucker stop restaurant in all of Pennsylvania last month. Still not satisfied? A quick visit to the PA turnpike’s website gives you a detailed map of every rest stop along the turnpike and answers the very important question: Which have Starbucks and which do not?

3. Snacking á la Car
The good, the bad, and the healthy. While you’ve surely picked out some of the most delicious-looking fooderies and restaurant joints along your trip trail, sitting in the car for hours can work up an appetite. Your stomach might start gurgling, but you’ve got miles to go before the next eatery, and nobody wants to travel with a hangry passenger. Pack up a cooler or backpack with a wide range of easy and quick snacks – something for every mood you may be in. The easier to eat, the better. We don’t want a driver fiddling with yogurt lids and unperforated packages while their eyes should be on the road.

Packageless snacks like apples could be ideal. No fuss and no trash. Other packaged snacks allow for chowing down with little mess. Sunflower seeds, trail mix, and shredded beef jerky are simple enough to throw back in quick handfuls. Be sure not to forget a reusable straw for any beverage. Twisting caps off and turning drinks up into your mouth could be a driver’s worst nightmare, so pack wisely and snack away! The Pioneer Woman has some great ideas for road trip snacking.

4. Mapping Like Your Mom Did
Siri seems to be able to do everything. From changing its voice to British or Australian at your request to telling you exactly where to go on your GPS, it’s become a steadfast tool for travel. But let’s just say you’re driving through secluded areas and forested roads, over bridges and through tunnels, and you lose service. How will you get to where you’re going without that tried-and-true British Siri telling you which way to turn? Or say your phone dies while on a solo expedition and your portable charger is out of juice? Well, 1998 called, and they said paper maps are back in!Having a paper map of the state you’re traveling through in your glove box is the ultimate road trip backup. Study your route before heading out and even trace it onto the paper map as a fun guide that even kids would love to follow along with. Sure, folding it back up could be one of life’s biggest battles, but you’ll be glad you have it in case of an emergency. PA maps should be available in almost every rest stop as well. If you don’t have a chance to pick one up before the trip, you can purchase one during one of those treasured potty breaks we talked about earlier!

5. Shaking Your Good Thing
No fighting over who’s got the aux! Much like having ready-to-go snacks, music should be prepared before the big trip to avoid any conflict. Flipping through mixes to find just the right song can be dangerously distracting, and arguments over who gets to decide can put a damper on the trip. Creating a playlist specifically for your trip can be a perfect way to not only groove to some great tunes but also keep your eyes on the road and give everyone what they want.

Apps like Spotify have tools to share playlist creation between multiple accounts so everyone gets a say. Too overwhelmed about what to pick? Let the apps do it for you! Spotify has a variety of road trip-themed playlists just waiting to be listened to. Not into apps? Try going the old-school route. If you’re lucky enough to own a car with a working CD player, create a playlist on a CD – or stop at a random flea market on your trip and buy a few. Road trip songs should be upbeat and fun. Do it in Griswold family vacation-style and add Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road”!

The journey is half the fun!
Whether you’re a seasoned road tripper and all of this sounds like old news, or you’re a newbie just dipping your foot into the road-trip lifestyle, it’s always good to be reminded of what to bring and how to prepare. Road trips are only fun when you aren’t worried about what could happen at every next turn. Consider these essentials and road-trip with ease.

If you’re looking for a road-trip guide this spring, be sure to look out for Good For PA’s PA Park Road Trip – a fun look at local park spots throughout PA, including the best routes to take, the yummiest restaurants to eat at along the way, and some of the coolest things to see on the road. Happy road-tripping!

Forest Therapy: A New Approach to Visiting Pennsylvania Parks

By guest blogger, Erika Hovland Bahij

The words “parks and trails” may conjure up an image of Gore-tex-clad athletes hiking up steep hills with full backpacks and trail mix in hand. Scratch that image. The newest trend in visiting Pennsylvania Parks is accessible for people of all ages, abilities, and fitness levels.

Forest Therapy, also referred to as Forest Bathing or Shinrin-Yoku, is a practice in which people walk short distances, slowly, while engaging their senses to connect with the outdoors. Frequently guided by a certified Forest Therapy practitioner, participants generally slowly walk a mile or less.

What is the experience of Forest Therapy like?:
The perspective of Certified Forest Therapy Guide

When we pause to reflect, we create meaning from what we see and experience. Our ancestors—before electricity, smartphones and 24/7 streaming services—spent time gazing at stars or dipping their toes into fresh water. There is still something inside many of us that yearns for that visceral connection and to make meaning of our experiences. What would happen if we allowed the forest, or a tree, or a flower, to guide us into remembering our connection with nature?

The practice of Forest Therapy is grounded in the belief that the earth has wisdom to share with humans when we slow down long enough to pay attention. Because of this, I describe a Forest Therapy walk as more of a saunter than a hike. The root word of the verb “to saunter” means to muse or to wonder, and that’s what people do when they participate.

As a guide certified by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, I follow the practices of the organization, which views the forest as the “teacher” and the leader of the program as a “guide” who opens space for people to experience nature in the way that is meaningful for them. This means it’s hard to describe what an experience would be like for a particular individual. Generally speaking, however, many people talk about feeling more connected, more peaceful or describe the wonder of seeing something they had never seen before.

A typical guided program includes:

    • an introduction to the walk
    • a series of invitations (guided prompts or questions) to support you in connecting with nature during the program
    • an ending sharing circle where participants gather, drink tea together and close the program.

We typically spend 1.5-3 hours exploring a natural setting, such as the woods, a park or arboretum.

The participants are supported by “invitations” which are prompts to notice the environment by engaging one or more senses. For example, a common invitation is to notice what is in motion around you. In one event, we paused to watch a squirrel leap from tree branch to tree branch while carrying leaves in her mouth, until she scurried into a hole high up in the tallest tree. We saw her tail twitch through the hole as she worked to build her nest. This sight may cause one person to think of squirrels in their home, another to wonder at the squirrel’s agility, and still another to feel they caught a glimpse into a previously-hidden world. Or, it may cause a person to make deeper meaning of their own life – wondering privately about their own leaping, clambering and foraging.

What benefit might I experience from Forest Therapy?

Forest therapy owes its roots in the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku. Surprisingly, the formal practice was established in the 1980s, after the government noticed a big increase in the incidence of cancer and autoimmune disease. They hypothesized that workers were spending more time inside working – perhaps overworking – and that these conditions negatively impacted their health. In response, the government sponsored research to figure out how to combat the health consequences. One of the questions they reinvestigated was “what happens when people spend time in forests?”

As you know, trees release oxygen, and we release carbon dioxide with our breath, which trees convert into food through photosynthesis. Excitingly, trees offer a benefit above and beyond this simple exchange.

Trees keep themselves healthy by releasing chemicals called phytoncides. These phytoncides seek out and kill fungus, so when a tree is attacked or invaded by an organism, it releases these chemicals. When we humans inhale phytoncides, our bodies begin to produce a special white blood cell, called a natural killer or NK-cell. NK-cells destroy cells that are stressed and could turn cancerous, so they work as a preventative measure to support our physical health. The Japanese saw this as an important finding and began to encourage people to go into the forest to “bathe” in phytoncides, which is why the practice is sometimes called forest bathing. Additionally, spending time in nature can help restore the ability to focus and pay attention – especially in people who have recently exerted significant mental energy at work or after studying.

Other benefits include lowered stress levels, lowered blood pressure and a boost of positive emotions, like peace, joy, and wonder,

How can I try Forest Therapy?
First, you may want to try a simple practice on your own. Visit a local park, sit beneath a tree and watch what happens around you. Ideally, spend 20 minutes just observing. If you can do it, you will usually be rewarded because more birds or animals will sense they can trust you and come into your line of vision.

However, “sit spot” can be challenging because it’s incredibly tempting to pull out the phone and start “doing” instead of just “being.”

This is why it can be helpful to have a guide offering prompts and gentle reminders to engage your senses. We help you slow down, so you can be fully present in the moment. We can also support you in feeling comfortable exploring a new park or unfamiliar trail, making it easier for families, those with physical limitations or people who feel a bit apprehensive of “the woods” to connect with nature. Guides are also certified in Wilderness First Aid, which provides another layer of safety for participants.

Many guides offer walks via Eventbrite or Facebook, or in partnership with local parks and preserves. Try searching “forest therapy near me.”

About the author
Erika Hovland Bahij is an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Rose and Redwood LLC, which provides programs and products to nurture your true nature.® Programs such as Forest Therapy walks and Rose and Lion Leadership Programs for Children inspire people to connect to nature, unearth their strengths and feel inspired to share their gifts with the world. Certified through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) as a Forest Therapy guide, Erika is also certified in Wilderness First Aid. She grew up in Minnesota (the land of 10,000 lakes!) and has spent many hours camping, hiking, and enjoying the outdoors. She now resides with her family in Pennsylvania. You can learn more about Erika here:

The Women Trailblazers of Parks and Recreation

The history of park service, recreation centers, and national park assistance is vibrant and effervescent, with a collage of people of diverse gender, race, and age – yet much of that history has been, throughout time, forgotten or ignored. Like most histories, while women played important roles, they often haven’t been credited – overshadowed by male counterparts and pioneers simply because of their gender. Yet women’s history and park service and conservation history are so intertwined, they are practically synonymous.

Within the heart of every park, there are female trailblazers who paved the way and continue to do so – many of whose work resonates throughout the local PA parks that we residents know and cherish. So, for the love of suitably named “Mother” Nature and in observance of Women’s History Month, let’s look at the impactful women who have made their mark on Parks and Rec history in a variety of ways.

Lady Bird Johnson

You’re on a drive through highways and turnpikes and, by the roadside, instead of decaying billboards and abandoned junkyards, there are blooming daffodils and large patches of grass. This natural beauty is in part thanks to Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, our country’s First Lady from 1963 to 1969. She was a huge proponent of conservation of natural life, and her love for the land played a huge part in her role as First Lady, using the position to make big changes in the beautification of everyday areas in America.

Lady Bird Johnson not only helped beautify struggling and industrialized areas, but she also played a part in the conservation and creation of many parks. Using her status, she’d visit national and local parks, paparazzi in tow, to raise awareness for their protection. So next time you stroll through one of the many parks she touched, note the azaleas and the dogwoods, the pops of shrubs and the occasional bench and thank Ms. Lady Bird for all her beautification work.

Barbara Ann Sutteer

Remembering the past can be just as important as changing the future. Education and history are just as vital to local and national park systems as conservation and beautification efforts. As the second Native American woman appointed superintendent of the National Park Service, Barbara Ann Sutteer’s work was all about making – and correcting – history. Within the early days of her superintendent career for the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (formerly the Custer Battlefield Monument –a name she aided in having changed for historical accuracy), she doubled the number of Native American employees, allowing the door to open for all people to play a part in park service.

She also worked closely in making sure the park’s education accurately depicted the reality of the Battle at Little Bighorn. She saw this as an opportunity to teach about the Native Americans who suffered, endured, and still lived and survived close by. By introducing different pamphlets, books, and brochures to the park for visitors to see, she motivated the park systems to use their land as a chance to educate – something that is still prevalent in local and national parks today.  Sutteer understood the importance of Native American reclamation of land, and she even facilitated conversations between the park service and multiple tribes after her retirement.

Florence Bascom

Otherwise known as the Stone Lady, and not because of her stone-cold gaze, Florence Bascom was the first female geologist working in the parks system. She was a trailblazer in geological science, a route not taken by women at the time. Geology, while not a commonly talked about topic when it comes to local parks, plays a large part in understanding park landscapes and the efforts needed to properly care for and preserve them.

Bascom became most known for studying rocks in Pennsylvania’s own Piedmont region and even made a discovery about Piedmont’s cycles of erosion, which in turn helped explain its rate of occurrence and future efforts toward conservation. In 1896, she became the first woman to join the United States Geological Survey – a group dedicated to surveying landscapes (many of which are now modern-day parks) and studying the hazards that may have been threatening them. Bascom fought hard to ensure the field of geology could be a possibility for anyone to get involved in, including women. If you ever meet a female geologist, it is likely that the Stone Lady herself is one of their biggest inspirations.

Betty Reid Soskin

A park ranger knows no age. Betty Reid Soskin made history as the oldest active park ranger, starting her parks career at the young age of 84 and retiring at 100 years old! When she decided to help develop the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, it was to eventually play a part in rewriting WWII history. There were untold stories of the home front, including the role that Black women played, and she felt these stories needed to be told to park visitors. She herself was a clerk in a segregated union during the war.

Reid Soskin’s goal was to not only help transform the historical documentation of the park by sharing her own knowledge of the time, but also to make the park more accessible and attractive to Black Americans. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded her a presidential commemorative coin and in 2018, “Glamour” magazine named her Woman of the Year. A quick search of her name will show that her activism dates back to even before her time with the parks: a musician, and poet, Betty Reid Soskin is truly inspiring!

Celebrate women every day.

From protecting and preserving not only the parks’ natural beauty and geological importance but also their history, these women changed the dynamics of Parks and Rec for the better. While much of their work was not done specifically in Pennsylvania, it has transcended and affected the way Pennsylvania parks work today. By making park service more accessible to women, specifically women of color, initiating ways of keeping the parks clean and beautiful, and preserving their history, these women were trailblazers who should be celebrated this Women’s History Month.

If you’re looking for more direct ways to celebrate Women’s History Month in PA, there are parks to visit and classes to enroll in. Among other ladies-only classes offered at different local parks, Sinnemahoning State Park offers a Summer Women in the Wilds weekend jam-packed with environmental education and outdoor activities. Many parks in Pennsylvania feature monuments honoring historical women, like Bristol Lions Park’s Harriet Tubman monument. There are so many things to do and so many local parks to visit to celebrate herstory!


Celebrate Love For (and IN) Your PA Park

Roses are red, violets are blue, show love to PA parks, and don’t forget rec centers too! February is a great month to declare your love for someone, but it can also be an incredible reminder to spread love to your community and the environment. Maybe this year, show your love for your local park—and invite your partner so they don’t get jealous!

From fond memories of a playful youth to all the friends you’ve made on the trails since, there is so much to love about your local outdoor space. So, while the temperatures may still be low, there’s no way your heart won’t warm up hearing some real-life sentiments of PA citizens on what they love about their own Parks and Recs department. Love is truly in the air – the fresh outdoor air, that is.

Show yourself some love.
“Having a robust Parks and Recs department in a community is so important on so many levels. The fitness classes and the trails definitely made a very positive difference in my health and fitness – without them I literally don’t think I would have survived a sudden major medical trauma. Never doubt what a Parks and Rec department can do for a community.”
– Citizen of Upper Dublin since 2006

Water aerobics? Zumba? Goat yoga?! What’s not to love about all the activities and classes a recreation center located near you has to offer? Much more than a way to pass time, the variety of healthy outlets being offered can change the way you live your life, and sometimes, as you can see in the quote above, can even save it. According to the CDC, just two and a half hours per week of aerobic activity, such as swimming laps in the recreational pool, can decrease the risk of chronic illness. Yoga decreases stress and can be a huge help to eliminate factors that lead to heart disease, including intense inflammation. By taking a class or working out, no matter the intensity, you’re not only loving your rec center, but you’re also loving yourself!

Love the togetherness.
“I love gathering with my family and friends at beautiful Mead Park in Corry. The food always tastes better outside. If eating outside and it rains, you can choose a pavilion covered with a roof. With 50 acres of land and woods, there’s plenty of picnic areas with tables to sit and eat. It is a beautiful park to spend your day in.”
                                                                                                                 – Citizen of Corry

While spending time loving your park, you can also spend time loving the people IN it. Parks understand that reuniting, getting to know one another, or sharing laughter and stories over a meal is a necessity for how we live and how we love – which is why many PA parks offer specific spaces to do just that. With tables built for dining on hot dogs and burgers (and all those condiments you really love) and plenty of grassy space for throwing around a ball, unleashing your worn boards and bean bags for a game of cornhole, or even taking a stroll down memory lane, there are so many ways to experience nature while spending time with those you care about. Looking for a place where you can spend some alone time with that special someone? Beyond wide-open areas tailored for meeting in large groups, many parks have secluded areas and scenic lookouts that can make your heart melt. A picturesque picnic is a perfect date for nature lovers and nature newbies alike. Loving your community is easier when you’ve got a PA park to help you do it.
Love the little creatures.
“In a canoe on the Yellow Breeches, I saw 2 black minks playing and scurrying among some rocks. I really enjoyed watching them.”
                                                                                 – Citizen near Cumberland Valley

Birds chirping, frogs hopping, and beavers damming – the park is brimming with animals you just gotta love. And speaking of minks, did you know that humans are a mink’s deadliest predator? Around 100,000 minks are trapped every year in the United States. A state park can mean a second chance for any animal that risks danger in the greater outdoors. It becomes a refuge for them. In this way, the park that you love is loving the animals that inhabit it – and surely, without a doubt, you’re loving the animals that inhabit it too, because they are just that darn cute!

Find true love.
“My husband proposed to me during a hike to the statue of the Native American at Valley Green on Rosh Hashanah. We’ll celebrate our 30-year anniversary this May, and I can’t count how many times my children have heard that story and taken that same hike with us.”                                                        – Rachel in Montgomery County

Love for the park? How about love IN the park too? Whether you’re looking for your dream rom-com meet-cute, spending a first date on a trail, or wanting to spend time with a partner, there is romance to be found in a PA park. Just a few romantic ideas include ice skating, snowy hiking, a picnic in the grass, even people-watching from a park bench (one of the nation’s fondest pastimes). Maybe try picking bundles of wildflowers for one another as a thoughtful gift, or perhaps riding a tandem bike through one of the many bike paths offered. An outdoor recreational space can be an intimate way to nurture a relationship – the sweet soothing sounds of waterfalls and birds chirping and the sun shining through the leaves of the trees making your loved one’s eyes sparkle – let romance ensue!

Make this month about more than candy hearts and love letters. You just read a whole love letter to the Parks and Rec of Pennsylvania. From keeping such abundant troves of trees, flowers, and animals alive and healthy, to keeping your body and mind healthy as well, there is nothing PA Parks and Rec wouldn’t do to show how much it loves you! And don’t forget about your community. The people you meet in classes, on the playgrounds, or even just on a dirt path are people that make up your neighborhood. A new friend may be just waiting to be found. Take the time to make sure your friends, family, and partner feel loved, and always remember that your local parks and rec needs love too!

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 or 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 ( 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 ( 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!

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.

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! (

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:

All photos contributed by Rick Fichter

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!