National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is held annually on the fourth Saturday in September and is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public lands. It is also a day where entrance fees are waived at all national and state parks. This day is coordinated by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) and their mission every year is to bring together as many volunteers as possible of all ages and backgrounds to help restore the public lands while also encouraging Americans to get out and enjoy the beauty and recreation nature has to offer.
This year’s 25thanniversary emphasis for NPLD was resilience and restoration. NEEF chose this focus because although our natural resources are resilient, they only stay that way when they’re treated correctly and given the care they need. IFCNR Director Kelsy Armstrong made it a point to get involved locally in Virginia and take part in this celebration.
Virginia, the state that is for lovers of all things (mountains, beaches, and history to name a few), has taken NPLD a step farther by making the celebration of public lands an entire week long experience. September 22, 2018 marked the second annual Virginia Public Lands Day and will last until September 29th. The Virginia Conservation Network and Virginia’s United Land Trusts partnered with Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and the Piedmont Environmental Council to help promote this week of service-oriented events across 35 different state parks.
Kelsy and other volunteers made their way to Belle Isle State Park in Lancaster, Virginia to help tend the park’s oyster gardens. Here volunteers got to learn about the life of an oyster and their crucial importance to the ecosystems of bays and rivers while also getting their hands dirty with the cleaning of their constructed habitats at Belle Isle. The oysters grown here are not for harvest but for educational purposes for their interpretation department. Other examples of events taking place throughout the state this day included invasive plant management activities, trash/litter cleanups along waterways, preparation of park gardens for winter, and guided hikes through mountain regions.
Celebrations like this are great reminders for the public to get out in nature and not only enjoy it but to also give back. Use this week to inspire yourself to get involved in local public lands year round and help make our planet a better place for all.