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!

Celebrate The First Healthy Lands Week

 

One of the many advantages of living in Pennsylvania is that we’re able to enjoy the many wonderful recreation areas, trails, forests, waterways, nature and wildlife reserves, and local and state parks. 

However, keeping PA’s public lands healthy and happy for years to come is the responsibility of all state residents – not just parks and recreation agencies. 

To highlight the importance of protecting and preserving our public lands, a new annual celebration is about to take place this month – Healthy Lands Week

What is Healthy Lands Week? 

Launching this September, Healthy Lands Week is more than a new annual celebration on Pennsylvania’s public lands. It’s also an exciting new way to encourage volunteerism and stewardship of these public lands, parks and open spaces throughout the state.  

Healthy Lands Week is designed to motivate PA residents to achieve the following goals: 

  • Build an understanding of our individual roles in the stewardship of public areas and open spaces.
  • Strengthen volunteerism by actively participating in outdoor volunteer events such as  tree planting, trail maintenance, painting, and litter removal during the celebratory week – and all year long. 
  • Build an understanding of the value of these volunteer activities.
  • Create a sustainable system of public lands.
  • Develop an understanding of our individual actions on public spaces, both helpful and harmful.
  • Have fun and make friends!

In addition to promoting the above goals, Healthy Lands Week is also honored to support Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s Pick Up Pennsylvania program

 

What Events are Scheduled for Healthy Lands Week?

This year’s inaugural Healthy Lands Week kicks off on National Public Lands Day, Saturday, September 24 and wraps up on Sunday, October 2. 

During the week-long celebration, PA residents can participate in a series of statewide volunteer events, including clean-up and beautification activities, invasive species removal programs, maintenance projects, and other initiatives. 

Some of this year’s Healthy Lands Week events include:

These are just a few of the many great events happening during Healthy Lands Week. As the celebration approaches, more and more events will be added. Please visit the Healthy Lands Week Event Page to stay up to date with the latest additions. 

How to Participate In Healthy Lands Week

To help make the first Healthy Lands Week a major success, the various events require the dedication and energy of a passionate volunteer base. 

Anyone interested in participating in local and statewide Healthy Land Week initiatives is encouraged to sign up via the dedicated Registration Page

Once registration has been confirmed, participants will receive an email with detailed information regarding the events, safety information, supplies and resources, and other pertinent messages. 

For those who are unable to attend the various Healthy Lands Week events, there is still plenty that can be done year round. Visit your local park’s website for volunteer opportunities or offer a donation to support Healthy Lands Week initiatives.

Learn More About Volunteer Events In Pennsylvania 

We’re excited for the start of the first Healthy Lands week – and we hope you are, too!

If you would like to stay up to date on the latest events, activities and volunteer opportunities in your local parks, be sure to visit our Explore PA Local Parks tool and subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter

 

Five Fun End Of Summer Activities And Events

44Earlier sunsets. Back-to-school store displays. Slightly cooler evenings. These are just a few of the subtle signs that we only have a few weeks of summer left. 

But let’s not rush things. There’s still plenty to do and enjoy while the temps are still high and the days are still filled with sunshine. 

If you’re looking for fun outdoor activities and events to enjoy before summer ends, we’ve picked a few of our favorites to share with you! 

The Moraine State Park Regatta

Looking for free fun that’s perfect for individuals, couples and families? You’ll find it at the 23rd Annual Moraine State Park Regatta!

Beginning Friday, August 5 and lasting until Sunday, August 7, on the shores of Lake Arthur,  Portersville, PA will host a series of exciting water- and land-based recreational activities, including kayaking, sailing, live music, vendors, food, fireworks and more! 

This all-ages event is free to the public. However, plan accordingly, as the Regatta typically draws thousands of attendees! 

Kettle Creek Music Festival 

If you’re a music fan, you’ll want to head to Cross Fork, PA for the Kettle Creek Music Festival

Taking place from Thursday, August 11 until Saturday, August 13, this fest hosts multiple local and touring musical acts from a variety of genres, including rock, pop, country, blues, folk and more. The fest has even presented some of the country’s most popular tribute band acts, too!

In addition to introducing the community to lots of great music, the Kettle Creek Music Festival also serves as a fundraising event for more than a dozen area nonprofits. Ticket holders help support an array of local medical and veterans’ organizations as well as youth programs. 

The fest also allows attendees to camp on the event grounds and shop from a variety of merchandise and food vendors. 

PA Ice Cream Trail 

One of the most popular end of summer activities showcases some of our state’s favorite things: outdoor activity, beautiful scenery and locally-made ice cream! 

Developed by the fine folks at VisitPA, the annual ice cream trail, mixes three separate trails in Eastern, South Central and Western Pennsylvania with some of those regions’ best local creameries and ice cream shops. 

Enjoy the last days of summer by becoming an ice cream trailblazer. Discover areas of the state you’ve never visited, treat your eyes to the beautiful scenic landscapes, befriend fellow residents and out-of-state visitors, and indulge in some of the state’s most delicious ice cream cones, shakes and sundaes! 

Ukrainian Folk Festival and Outdoor Summer Concert 

On Sunday, August 28, Pennsylvanians can experience the rich history of Ukraine via music, dance, food and fun at the Ukrainian Folk Festival and Outdoor Summer Concert. 

This year’s festival is being held at the Ukrainian-American Sport Center in Horsham, PA from 12:00 – 8:00 PM. Attendees are invited to indulge in authentic cuisine, marvel at the traditional dances, and enjoy a variety of music that ranges from Ukrainian folk songs to contemporary American pop and rock music. 

Best of all, a portion of the proceeds from each festival ticket benefits humanitarian aid efforts in the Ukraine. 

Heart of Lancaster Arts and Craft Show

While many PA residents head to shore points for the ceremonial end of summer, you can have a fun Labor Day Weekend closer to home! 

Located at Roots Country Market in Mannheim, PA the 34th Anniversary Heart of Lancaster Arts and Craft Show lasts from Saturday, September 3 and concludes on Sunday, September 4. 

During this free rain or shine event, 200 artists from all over PA and neighboring states gather to present the best of their wares to the attendees. 

In addition to amazing art and pieces, the fest also features an array of local food vendors and live music from the popular local jazz ensemble Over Easy

Stay Up To Date With The Latest Event News 

This is just a small sampling of the many great end-of-summer activities and events happening in PA this year.

Our state and its local parks and communities host a variety of wonderful and original events and activities throughout the year. To see what’s happening in your community, we recommend using our handy Explore PA Local Parks locator tool! 

If you want to be the first to learn about the many wonderful things happening in Pennsylvania, be sure to subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter

Enjoy The Beauty Of Migrating Monarch Butterflies In PA

Summertime has so many benefits. Your body soaks up plenty of vitamin D from the sun. The fresh air gives us the energy we lacked during the winter months. And we get to enjoy some of our favorite activities like picnicking, fishing, swimming in the community pool, outdoor concerts, parades, and so much more. 

One of the best parts of the summer is also one of the most fleeting: the chance to enjoy the sight of a beautiful Monarch butterfly fluttering in the gentle breeze. 

Each summer, Monarch butterflies visit our state to fill our skies and offer us the opportunity to see their beauty up close. 

But what draws these butterflies to our region? And how can we ensure that they’ll continue to make PA their home for the summer?

Keep reading to find out more about Monarch butterfly migration in Pennsylvania!

Monarch Butterfly Migration 101  

Each year, Monarch butterflies make a long journey from Mexico and select Southern states to the Northeast states. The purpose of this journey: to lay the eggs that will become the next generation of these beautiful butterflies. 

In Pennsylvania, Monarch butterflies begin to appear in spring. Depending on the respective climate and temperatures, some PA regions may spot their first Monarch in May while others will see their first Monarchs in June.

So why do these butterflies make a 3,000-mile journey from the South to Pennsylvania each year to lay their eggs? They’re looking for a particular plant that’s native to our state.

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs in areas that are rich with Milkweed. A few days later, those eggs will hatch hungry Monarch caterpillars who love to eat Milkweed plants. They’ll need plenty of tasty Milkweed to help them grow and start the next phase in their life cycle. 

After about two weeks of feasting on Milkweed, the fully-grown caterpillar will find a nice place to attach itself and begin the pupa stage of its life cycle. In this stage, the caterpillar forms a shell called a chrysalis that protects them as they metamorphosize into their final stage of life. 

In a few weeks, the metamorphosis is complete, the chrysalis hatches and out flies a beautiful orange and black Monarch Butterfly. 

Throughout July and August, you’ll see these gorgeous butterflies filling the skies in areas that are filled with Milkweed.

As the summer ends and fall begins, these butterflies begin their journey back to the Southern states and Mexico to start their life cycle all over again. 

By the time they return to Pennsylvania in the following spring, those Monarch butterflies will be the great grandchildren of the butterflies that left our state during the previous fall. 

So where can you find Monarch butterflies in your area? The answer may be closer than you think! 

Create Your Own Monarch Butterfly Habitat 

So we know that Monarch butterflies lay their eggs in locations where Milkweed plants are plentiful. 

Since Milkweed is native to Pennsylvania and grows in the wild, many local parks and agencies are developing habitats lush with this plant to attract Monarch butterflies and ensure a successful migration season. 

In addition to creating habitats in public places, local and state agencies are also encouraging PA residents to create their own Monarch butterfly habitats in their backyards and gardens. 

In the past few years, winter weather in Southern states (such as the devastating winter storm that hit Texas in 2021) has negatively impacted the growth of Milkweed. Since butterflies need this food source for repopulation, the numbers of butterflies that migrated to Pennsylvania over the past couple of years has decreased. 

To help boost the Monarch butterfly population, you can plant Milkweed seeds and flowers that attract these pollinators. Many local schools, agencies and businesses offer Monarch butterfly kits filled with Milkweed and pollinator seeds to plant in your home garden to create your own Monarch butterfly habitat. 

Or you can always visit your local gardening center, farmer’s market or nursery to pick up packets of Milkweed, purple coneflower, California poppy, sunflower and lupin seeds for a homegrown habitat. 

Stay Informed 

Now you know why PA is a popular summertime spot for Monarch butterflies, when and where to watch them, and how you can create your own habitat to ensure their visit next spring!

We hope you found this article informative! If you enjoyed this look at Monarch butterfly migration and would like to learn more about all of the great things happening in our local parks and throughout our great state, please subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter

 

History and Evolution of Local Parks and Park Professionals

Every day, our local PA parks and recreation centers support our communities via the various services, programs, activities and events they offer. 

To highlight the many benefits of our local parks and recreational resources, we celebrate National Park and Recreation Month each July!

In honor of this annual celebration, we invite you to enjoy this brief overview of our local parks and the professionals – and to learn how you can help celebrate this annual event in your community! 

The Early Days of Local Parks 

Modeled after the local parks found throughout Europe,  the first local parks in the U.S. actually predate the formation of our nation. Often considered the first park in the New World, Boston Commons was established in the mid-17th Century.

While local parks existed in the early days of our nation’s history, their popularity didn’t grow until the mid 19th Century. As our cities grew and became more industrialized, local communities wished to maintain some semblance of nature. 

Instead of further developing land for housing and industry, communities reserved open spaces for multiple uses. Not only did these park areas serve as a natural oasis from the factories and crowded streets, they also encouraged residents to enjoy the outdoors, replenish their lungs with fresh air, learn about nature and exercise. 

Each park allowed communities to enjoy a bit of the countryside among their more urban surroundings. 

Over time, more and more parks were established throughout our growing country. And with these parks came the need for community members who would manage these spaces. 

The Evolution of Park Professionals 

Once communities began to reserve outdoor spaces for recreational use, they soon realized that they needed community members to maintain these areas. 

Originally, these individuals were simple caretakers. Yet, as parks evolved so did their role. 

Over time, communities established parks and recreation departments. In their present form, these local teams’ responsibilities go beyond strictly maintaining multiple park grounds. 

Each day, park professionals seek to achieve their goal of improving the quality of their communities’ life via local park resources. 

Parks and recreations departments develop and introduce new activities and programs, organize special events, repair and replace damaged equipment, install new facility features,  secure funding, perform community outreach and build partnerships. They do each of these things and more to enhance  the park experience to further benefit their neighborhoods. 

An infographic explaining how many parks and park professionals there are in Pennsylvania

Thanks to these dedicated professionals, local parks have evolved to meet the various wants and needs of our communities. 

Collage of old photos of various park professionals from local Pennsylvania parks and recreation agencies throughout the years

How Local Parks Have Changed Over The Years 

In their earliest forms, parks were fairly rudimentary. They offered lots of open fields for picnicking and playing and beautiful scenery that juxtaposed with the backdrop of the cities. 

However, thanks to park professionals, various equipment, programs and activities were introduced over the years to improve local parks:

Playgrounds

When community streets became congested with vehicles (horse drive and later motorized), they became unsafe for children yearning to play outdoors. The solution: adding playgrounds to local parks. 

With the addition of playgrounds, community children had designated places where they could safely play away from the dangerous streets, develop and strengthen their socialization skills, and meet new friends. 

Just like the parks themselves, playgrounds have evolved over the years. While the earliest playgrounds included such features as swing sets and slides that remain popular fixtures to this day, they also were not easily accessible for all children. 

Now, our modern park playgrounds are more inclusive and adaptive for children of all ages and abilities. In addition to the slides and swings, children also enjoy an array of auditory, musical and sensory-rich elements, panels and spinners, and ramped structures for greater accessibility. 

Trails

Originally, park trails were often simple dirt paths folks followed to get from one part of the park to the other. 

As the need for additional recreational activities increased, park professionals began to add trails so visitors could better observe the nature and wildlife found throughout the parks. 

When society began to understand the need for increased exercise among city dwellers and urban communities, park professionals introduced paved walking, running and biking trails. 

The popularity of trails in local parks has led to such innovative concepts as repurposing abandoned train tracks for use as “Rails to Trails” multi-used shared paths for walking, running, biking, horseback riding and even cross-country skiing. 

Programs 

In addition to providing open spaces for communities for recreation, parks were also established to connect residents with nature. In parks, residents could see wildlife, trees, flowers and plants not found in the cities. In this way, parks also served as an educational resource for communities. 

Realizing the educational potential of parks, many park professionals began to develop programs to teach children and adults new skills and introduce them to new hobbies and activities. 

Parks along waterfronts began to offer swimming lessons for children and adults. When parks began to incorporate spaces for playing baseball, tennis and soccer, park professionals understood that not every child was familiar with these sports and activities. So these parks soon offered lessons and camps for children interested in these activities. 

Presently, the educational opportunities of local parks and recreational centers are as diverse and eclectic as the communities they serve. Many local parks and recreation centers are community resources for yoga, archery, water aerobics, arts and crafts, acting, singing, dance, fitness, weight training and so much more! 

Collage of old photos from local Pennsylvania parks and recreation agencies throughout the years

Celebrate Our Local Parks and Park Professionals 

While it’s important to celebrate all of the wonderful benefits that our local parks and recreational centers provide, it’s equally important to honor the tireless contributions of our communities’ park professionals. 

Observed on July 15 during National Park and Recreation Month, Park and Recreation Professionals Day spotlight everyone who dedicates their lives to operating our area’s invaluable resources. 

Park and Recreation Professionals Day 2022 Logo

While local recreation and park agencies throughout the state are hosting special Park and Recreation Professionals Day events on this date, some extra special spotlight celebrations will take place at the following locations:

  • Lancaster Recreation in Lancaster City – Pool Party on July 15 from 6:00 – 8:00 P.M. Lancaster Recreation welcomes other professionals from surrounding areas including Lititz, Hempfield, Ephrata, County Parks, YWCA’s and YMCA’s. Call for more details: 717-392-2115
  • Upper St. Clair Township Recreation & Leisure On July 15 beginning at 9:30 am and open to the public, there will be opening remarks and then a tour of their camp, pool, and guest relations and end with refreshments. Along the tour, the different professional/staff positions will be highlighted. Call for more details: (412) 831-9000 or (412) 831-9882

Whether you’re a longtime local park enthusiast or a new member of the community looking to learn more about your local parks and rec agencies, National Park and Recreation Month and Park and Recreation Professionals Day provide the perfect opportunity! 

Not sure where the nearest local park is located? No worries! Use our convenient and user-friendly Explore PA Local Parks tool to find the park closest to your home! 

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to stay up to date with the latest information about your local PA parks and special events like National Park and Recreation Month and Park and Recreation Professionals Day, please subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter

 

Making PA Parks More Accessible For Everyone

Spending time outdoors is something we Pennsylvanians really enjoy. That’s why our state boasts over 6,000 local parks in our communities. 

Unfortunately, some of our family, friends and neighbors are unable to fully enjoy these outdoor resources. 

According to recent surveys, one in seven Pennsylvanians has at least one disability. That means approximately 13.7% of our state’s population can’t enjoy the benefits of our local parks.  

Why?

Many of our existing local parks lack handicap-accessible facilities and features. These inadequacies make it difficult for disabled Pennsylvanians to visit and enjoy our local parks. 

However, times have changed. PA parks and recreation agencies are now committed to making  local parks more accessible and inclusive for individuals of all abilities

In the following article, we’ll explore some of the ways these agencies are updating local PA parks to improve the lives of all! 

Making Parks More Inclusive  

There was a time when society believed that adding handicap parking spots and restroom facilities equated an accessible space.

While those details are incredibly important, modern efforts to make local parks more accessible goes beyond those necessities. 

To make our local parks more accessible for those with mobility issues, agencies are updating existing trails and adding new ones. Not only are they widening trails to better accommodate wheelchairs and mobility aids, they’re also paving surfaces, including ramps and bridges with guardrails to make them usable for individuals and caretakers. 

Since fishing from riverbanks was a challenge for those with limited mobility, parks are investing in wheelchair access points such as piers and platforms. 

These changes allow those with minimal mobility to hike, explore nature, observe wildlife, fish and more easily travel to areas of the parks that were previously inaccessible. 

Enhancements to our local parks are not purely focused on community members with limited mobility. Those with vision and hearing impairments are also benefiting from new upgrades to our local parks, recreational facilities and museums. 

Many agencies are  offering assisted listening devices and/or sign language interpreters to assist with guided tours and educational programs. In addition, directional signage has been updated with braille and tactile supports like guide ropes have been introduced to make exploring our parks more attainable for visually impaired visitors. 

Playgrounds are being redesigned and upgraded so they can be enjoyed by children of all abilities. Many now feature accessible swing seats, more ground-level activities for children with limited mobility, and lots of sensory stimulating play panels for children with autism and sensory processing disorders. 

In addition to these and other enhancements, local agencies are also updating assets outside the park itself to improve accessibility. 

Improving Access To Park Information

Before disabled individuals or their caretakers visit a local park, they need to know if the location is equipped with resources that meet their needs. 

To better convey this information, agencies are improving the accessibility of their websites. 

Along with adding details about park accessibility, many park websites have been upgraded to meet American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. 

To engage vision impaired individuals and those with learning disabilities, agencies are employing text-to-speech technology to assist these users when navigating the website. This technology helps these disabled visitors understand all guidelines, news, event info, maps, and pictures/graphics found throughout the site. 

These are just a few of the many ways PA parks and recreation agencies are ensuring that our outdoor spaces are truly accessible for all. 

Looking for more information about accessible parks in your area. Our Explore PA Local Parks locator tool is a great place to start your search!

And if you’re interested in learning more about accessibility efforts and other park-related news, we invite you to subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter

How Local Dog Parks Benefit Your Community

There are a lot of things to consider when moving to a new neighborhood. Finding a nice home or apartment that’s comfortable is key. Yet, folks also want to ensure that their  potential new home is conveniently close to their workplace, is located in a highly rated school district, and provides easy access to shopping, dining and entertainment options. 

However, many people are also considering another factor when researching new places to live: proximity to dog parks. 

Why?

According to recent statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), over 38% of U.S. households own a dog. When dog owners are looking for a new area to live, they want a place that not only appeals to their needs but their canine companion’s needs too. That’s good news for communities who are eager to welcome new residents into the area. 

However, attracting new residents to the neighborhood is not the only way dog parks benefit  communities. 

Here are a few of the key benefits local dog parks bring to their communities. 

Dog Parks Provide Lots of Open Space 

Dogs differ in so many ways. Some are big while others are small. Certain breeds have ears that are pointed while others have floppy ears. Even fur types differ between breeds. Yet, despite all their differences, most dog breeds share one common trait: they love being outdoors. 

Sure, they love spending time with their humans indoors (especially if they’re allowed on the furniture). But nothing beats spending some time outdoors in the wide open spaces. 

Having access to a local dog park allows households to treat their pooch to some prime outdoor time. Here, they can stretch all their legs, breathe some fresh air and sharpen their senses of smell, hearing and sight. 

Having access to a local dog park is especially beneficial for community members who live in apartments. Although many apartment buildings have pet policies that welcome dogs, they often do not have a dedicated outdoor space for these furry tenants. A local dog park solves this problem for apartment owners and residents alike. 

Even households that have a yard can benefit from a nearby dog park. Yards are great for quick outdoor activities, but they don’t give dogs a golden opportunity to play, jump and run like they really want to. 

This leads us to the next benefit…

Dog Parks Promote Physical Activity 

Dogs love to run, jump and play catch. Then they love to do it again and again! 

Community dog parks let dogs be dogs and enjoy lots of physical activity. Getting ample amounts of exercise time is essential for domesticated dogs. They spend most of their time indoors sleeping while their owners are at work or school. Too much inactivity can be detrimental to a dog’s health. Without a good amount of exercise, dog’s can develop such health conditions as obesity, arthritis, and heart disease. 

These issues can be avoided when households take their dogs to the local dog park for exercise every day. Not only are trips to the park beneficial for canine health, they’re ideal for human health, too! Dog owners can soak up the sun (a good source of vitamin D), stretch their musicals by throwing balls or toys for their furry friends to catch, and burn off calories by walking, running or playing with their pooches.

Not only do dog parks help keep canine and human community members more active and healthy, they also help create a stronger sense of community. 

Dog Parks Help With Socialization 

Physical activity isn’t the only way pet owners help keep their dog’s healthy and happy. Properly socializing dogs is also important for their wellness. As we mentioned, all of that alone time a dog experiences every day can affect their physical health. It can also affect their mental health as well.

Spending time at the park allows dogs to spend time socializing and building strong bonds with their owners by playing and exercising. It also allows them to socialize with other dogs. As much as dogs love their owners, many of them also enjoy spending time with other canines. 

Trips to the park not only build bonds between dogs and their owners. They also provide residents the opportunity to meet their neighbors. Taking their dogs to the park is a wonderful way for neighbors to connect with each other. This in turn leads to new friendships which helps build a better sense of community that spreads throughout the entire neighborhood. 

Clearly, local parks offer lots of benefits to dogs and their owners. Yet, they benefit everyone in the community by encouraging members to spend more time outdoors, stay active, and connect with their neighbors. 

Not sure where the nearest dog park is located in your neighborhood? You can locate local dog parks in seconds with our Explore PA Local Parks tool

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to stay up to date with the latest information about your local PA parks, please subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter

Outdoor Aquatics At Your Local Park

There’s nothing quite like taking a dip in a cool outdoor pool during a sweltering summer day. Pennsylvanians can attest to that fact. Our summers are known to be especially humid so having access to a community pool is much appreciated. 

While community pools provide us with a wonderful way to stay cool and socialize with our neighbors, they’re also incredibly beneficial in other ways, too. And a lot of those benefits are due in large part to the outdoor aquatics courses and activities offered by our local parks and recreation teams! 

Below, we’ll highlight some of the best outdoor aquatics courses and activities that can be found at many local PA parks! 

Swimming Lessons

Perhaps the most valuable resource offered by our local parks’ outdoor aquatics programs is swimming lessons. Covering all levels from beginner to advanced, these lessons help reduce risks at our local pools by teaching children, teens and adults how to swim. 

In addition to instructing child and adult students on proper swim skills, breathing and stroke techniques, swim lessons also cover many basic water safety concerns. Since a trip to the community pool is a new experience for many community members (especially children), it’s important to ensure that they are well-versed in pool etiquette and safety, too. 

With these lessons, community members not only learn an essential life skill, they’re also better prepared to enjoy their outdoor community pools to the fullest all summer long! 

Lap Swimming 

Swimming is not only a great way to cool off on hot days and have fun with friends. It’s also a great workout, too! By swimming laps in a pool, adults can participate in a low-impact cardiovascular workout that  improves heart and lung functions, burns calories, and strengthens muscles. 

During the summer, many outdoor aquatics programs include lap time in their daily schedules. These especially reserved times allow community members the opportunity to get a great workout without the distractions of the other aquatic activities that happen throughout the day. 

Doggie Dips 

Humans aren’t the only ones who need relief from high temperatures during. Dogs could use a dip in the pool, too!

One of the newer aquatics programs being offered by select parks, doggie dips are special events that allow dog owners to bring their pooches to the pool. For a small fee, well-behaved and vaccinated canines can doggie paddle their tails off and socialize with their pals. 

Open Swim

It’s no surprise that most folks favorite outdoor aquatics program is the one that’s most relaxing: open swim. These are the specially designated times of day when adults and children can use the pool purely for recreation. It’s the perfect opportunity to take a leisurely swim, play a game with friends, practice your breaststroke and backfloat, or simply sit poolside and chat with neighbors.   

Outdoor aquatics programs are just one of the many benefits of your local parks and recreation facilities. Though they differ from park to park, we’re sure you’ll find a course or activity that suits you this summer. 

Want to find the nearest park with an outdoor pool and aquatics program? Then use our handy and helpful Explore PA Local Parks tool

After you sign-up for your next outdoor aquatics activity, be sure to subscribe to the Good For PA newsletter. That way you’ll always be up to date with the latest PA parks news, programs and events in your area!