Saturday, November 26, 2022

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Healthy Lands Week: Statewide Initiative to Strengthen Volunteer Activities

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Thursday, September 15, 2022   

Pennsylvanians are encouraged to visit and volunteer at one or more of the Keystone State's more than 6,000 local and state parks during Healthy Lands Week, an annual "rallying cry" for public stewardship of public lands, parks and open green spaces in Pennsylvania.

Heidi Pedicone, director of programs for Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, said Healthy Lands Week is a great way to emphasize the work they do year-round with their cleanup program providing free supplies to volunteers.

"Last year, for instance, we registered and reported over 4,000 events across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Pedicone reported. "September 24th through October 2nd complements this initiative and celebrates all that you can do for public lands in Pennsylvania. So you can plant a tree, paint a park bench, clear some trail debris, remove invasives or organize a litter cleanup."

This month, Gov. Tom Wolf announced a historic investment of a $90 million grant across Pennsylvania to create new recreational opportunities, conserve natural resources and help revitalize local communities.

Pedicone pointed out they collaborate with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to count cigarette butts outside state-park buildings and then, based on the count, they install receptacles. They have installed hundreds of them in about forty state parks across Pennsylvania.

"Once we do that count, it gives us an overall reduction," Pedicone noted. "We are about 64% reduction in cigarette waste. This year, we are doing that same program with the Department of Transportation. We're working at 14 different Welcome Centers across the state. We got a $20,000 grant from Keep America Beautiful to implement this program."

She added they partnered with the state departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation for Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful's 2019 Pennsylvania Litter Research Study, which found more than 500 million pieces of litter on Pennsylvania's roadways. About 37% of the litter was made up of cigarette butts.

The nonprofit Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation works to provide a voice for the 121 state parks and 2.2 million acres of forest land in Pennsylvania.

Marci Mowery, president of the Foundation, said they are gearing up for Healthy Lands Week with their 48 friends' groups and will be doing roadside cleanups, tree planting, trail maintenance and graffiti removal. She stressed ready-to-use parks are vital to people's health.

"We say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to steward these amazing places that do good things for us," Mowery asserted. "Spending time in the outdoors is good for your physical, mental and emotional health. Outdoor activities also helped to boost local economies."

Mowery stated average park visitation before the pandemic was 42 million, but they saw an increase to more than 46 million visitors.


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