Building your volunteer program- Tips for maximizing volunteer impact

A few weeks ago, I wrote this blog post about managing invasive plants. One key element of many successful management programs is capitalizing on volunteer involvement. So, whether managing invasive plants, running events, or helping with other department programs, how do we make the most of our volunteers?

Host volunteer events often

While it may take some extra work up front, holding regular volunteer events can help your volunteers to become more self-sufficient. Think of them as training events. After just two events, my regular volunteers remember their plant identification and begin independently assessing where work is needed. Regular events also allow your “super volunteers” to rise to the top. They can build excitement and momentum around your volunteer program, generating more interest within the community.

Identify and enable your “super volunteers”

Wherever I’ve worked with volunteers, a few individuals have always risen to the top. I like to call them my “super volunteers.” These individuals are deeply invested and willing to shoulder a greater number of tasks. As they grow confident in their work, they can often begin leading volunteers on their own, allowing us, as professionals, to magnify our impacts. To best enable these volunteers, consider a few questions:

  • What training do they need?
  • What certifications or waivers are required?
  • Can they access tools and equipment to share with other volunteers?

Explain the “why”

When kicking off events, remember to explain why we’ve asked people to come out and do all this work. For invasive plant removal events, I remind volunteers that they are helping native plants and wildlife. Are you supporting a good cause? Hosting an event that builds community value? Remind your volunteers why their work is so valuable.

On the flipside, many people do not necessarily come out for the cause, but for the sense of community they feel when volunteering. Remember to work opportunities for community building into your event. Schedule in time for your volunteers to gather around a coffee or snack table. Engage strangers in conversation together to get them talking. These small things can go a long way toward developing a richer volunteer program.

Remember, your job is to manage

Many of my best volunteer days haven’t involved lifting a tool at all. While it may be tempting to focus on the task at head, remember that we as leaders are there to manage the people. Rotate through groups, check on any needs or questions that come up, and take lots of photos. It’s often a different kind of work day than you may be used to, but will help your program to run more smoothly.

Celebrate successes

Take lots of photos and share them on social media with a thank you to your volunteers. A little thanks goes a long way!

Summer Energy Saving Tips

Content provided by PSECU

Turning up your air conditioner may seem like an easy solution for beating the heat in the summer months. But your energy expenses can add up quickly if you depend on your thermostat too much. So, how do you strike a balance when you’re battling the heat?

Your electric bill doesn’t have to increase just because the temperature does.  We’ve gathered a list of tips and money-saving gadgets that can save you energy in the summer so you can stay cool without sweating over your finances.

Use Cross Ventilation and Fans

Cross ventilation can help you cool your home at no cost. To start, open windows or doors on the opposite sides of your home during the early morning or late evening hours when the air is chilly.

If there’s a breeze, it’ll move throughout the house, eliminating the hot and stale air inside. If you don’t have any air movement outside, try placing fans in windows or doors on opposite sides of your rooms. You can create a breeze yourself and promote passive cooling.

You can also take advantage of overhead fans, which are a common feature in most homes. Box fans and rotating fans are also a convenient, cost-effective way to cool down, using far less energy than AC. To provide a comparison, an average central air conditioner uses an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 watts, whereas a ceiling fan uses only 15 to 90.

Keep Windows and Doors Closed and Sealed

Cool air will typically escape a home through old or improperly sealed windows and doors. Heat gain and loss through windows can account for 25% to 30% of heating and cooling energy use in residential properties, so it’s smart to look into these areas. Ensure your windows and doors are properly sealed, and keep them closed whenever you’re using your air conditioner.

To check if your windows need an update, carefully look for air leaks and examine the caulk and weatherstripping. Minor updates like redoing the caulking, investing in solar control film, and adding window coverings or treatments can be performed by just about any homeowner and help you save money.

If you’re willing and able to spend significantly more, you may prefer to replace your windows altogether. Upgrading to storm windows can be a worthwhile investment, reducing your heat loss by as much as 50%.

Maintain or Replace Your HVAC System

Your HVAC filter is constantly working to keep dirt and debris from swirling through your heating and cooling system. That said, it can hinder the efficiency of your HVAC system if it isn’t regularly cleaned or replaced. By cleaning or replacing your filters every month or two during the summer, you can reduce your AC’s energy consumption by up to 15%.

If you’ve already replaced your HVAC filters and don’t see a difference in the strength of your HVAC output, it may be time to consider replacing your cooling system, especially if it’s over 10 years old. It might also be the right time to update your system if you’re preparing your home to go on the market. Energy efficiency can be an attractive selling point to potential buyers.

Replacing your system can be a significant investment, of course. Fortunately, a home equity loan can give you access to the funds you need to make high-value improvements to your house.

Adjust Your Oven Usage and Diet

Even briefly using your oven can raise your kitchen’s temperature, affecting your comfort. By opting for no-bake foods like salads and sandwiches, you can keep your space cooler.

Reducing your oven usage doesn’t mean you have to forfeit a hot meal, however. Low and slow cooking options like crockpots can work well while keeping heat and energy costs to a minimum. On nice summer days, grilling is also a great way to get your family outside and make a delicious meal – no oven required.

Make the Most of Your Home’s Equity With PSECU

At PSECU, we’re here to help you put the value of your house to work. If you’re hoping to make home updates and reduce your energy costs, our home equity loans are a smart solution.

We offer competitive rates, no application fees, and an easy application process. Learn more about our options today.

The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Some products not offered by PSECU. PSECU does not endorse any third parties, including, but not limited to, referenced individuals, companies, organizations, products, blogs, or websites. PSECU does not warrant any advice provided by third parties. PSECU does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by third parties. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

Setting priorities for invasive species management: Don’t get lost in the weeds

Stick to the plan. I recently found myself repeating this mantra as I worked to remove invasive plants in a township park. The park has been overgrown by invasive species for years. As a natural resource manager, I found myself easily distracted by all the work that needs to be done. I have often doled out advice to land managers about how to set priorities and break down projects into manageable tasks, but it was time to follow it myself.

Do what you can do. Don’t do what you can’t.

The challenge of managing invasive plants on your property can be daunting. It may seem obvious, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves: only do what you can do. Do what is manageable within the scope of your resources. If a project is too big- it might not be right to tackle at this time. Better to choose a project that can be done to completion, and will only require routine maintenance to sustain.

“Do nothing” is an option

Every area of our parks is managed for a certain goal, whether that be a forest, meadow, or ball field. Not every project will improve our ability to meet those goals. Does this project serve those goals? If not, it is ok to move onto the next one.

Break things down into manageable tasks

When faced with a large project, don’t be overwhelmed by the task in its entirety. Focus on what needs to be done this year or this month. Removing the vines. Cutting back the first 50 feet along the trail. Then next year, you can tackle the next step. Often we don’t tackle a project because it seems too big. But once we change our perspective, the first small steps become possible.

Make a plan, but know that the plan can change

Develop a management plan for your parks, but think of it as a living document. What areas need immediate attention, and which can be put off until later? Make a timeline for each step of your plan. As factors change, adjust your plan accordingly. Making a point of revisiting and revising the plan 1-2 times a year can help to keep it realistic.

Never overlook the power of volunteers

I was recently working at a park that had a wall of thorny invasive species. I wanted to tackle it with a volunteer group, but was worried that it would be overwhelming. But my volunteers were intrepid. Within only a few hours, we had broken through the wall. Never be the barrier to what your volunteers accomplish. Allow them to work to their full potential. For more info on developing your volunteer base, here are some great words of wisdom.

The task of managing natural areas can be overwhelming with all the challenges we face, from too many deer to too few staff. Look at your goals and set priorities to meet them. Plan ahead, but focus on the task at hand. And you may stay out of the weeds.

Setting priorities for invasive species management: Don’t get lost in the weeds

When managing invasive species, set priorities based on your resources and goals, and stick to them.

Stick to the plan. I recently found myself repeating this mantra as I worked to remove invasive plants in a township park. The park has been overgrown by invasive species for years. As a natural resource manager, I found myself easily distracted by all the work that needs to be done. I have often doled out advice to land managers about how to set priorities and break down projects into manageable tasks, but it was time to follow it myself.

Do what you can do. Don’t do what you can’t.

The challenge of managing invasive plants on your property can be daunting. It may seem obvious, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves: only do what you can do. Do what is manageable within the scope of your resources. If a project is too big- it might not be right to tackle at this time. Better to choose a project that can be done to completion, and will only require routine maintenance to sustain.

“Do nothing” is an option

Every area of our parks is managed for a certain goal, whether that be a forest, meadow, or ball field. Not every project will improve our ability to meet those goals. Does this project serve those goals? If not, it is ok to move onto the next one.

Break things down into manageable tasks

When faced with a large project, don’t be overwhelmed by the task in its entirety. Focus on what needs to be done this year or this month. Removing the vines. Cutting back the first 50 feet along the trail. Then next year, you can tackle the next step. Often, we don’t tackle a project because it seems too big. But once we change our perspective, the first steps become possible.

Make a plan, but know that the plan can change

Develop a invasive species management plan for your parks, but think of it as a living document. What areas need immediate attention, and which can be put off until later? Make a timeline for each step of your plan. As factors change, adjust your plan accordingly. Making a point to revisit and revise the plan 1-2 times a year can help to keep it realistic.

Never overlook the power of volunteers

I was recently working at a park that had a wall of thorny invasive plants. I wanted to tackle it with a volunteer group, but was worried that it would be overwhelming. But my volunteers were intrepid. Within only a few hours, we had broken through the wall. Never be the barrier to what your volunteers accomplish. Allow them to work to their full potential. For more info on developing your volunteer base, here are some great words of wisdom.

The task of managing natural areas can be overwhelming with all the challenges we face as parks and recreation professionals- from too many deer to too few staff. Look at your goals and set priorities to meet them. Plan ahead, but focus on the task at hand. And you may stay out of the weeds.

Room for Growth: Composting In Our Parks & Recreation Systems Is a No-Brainer!

July 5, 2021 | Daniel Lawson | Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

In 2019 I hopped into a 5-minute slot in the department’s bi-weekly Program meeting. “I just want to clarify because there’s been some confusion out there – we do in fact have TWO new compost initiatives, we’ve been asking folks to participate in either or both, and they are in fact different from one another.” I speed-talked through the next four minutes trying to get the information out as clearly as possible. It’s even more confusing when I present to external audiences and explain to them there are actually three compost initiatives Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is working on.

A full Organics Feasibility Study conducted by MSW Consultants in 2018 revealed that 32.8% of the city’s waste stream by weight is some organic material. That’s food scraps, yard waste, and compostable paper. If you’re already into the wild world of waste, that isn’t a huge surprise, but another interesting fact is that the combination of glass, metals, plastics, and other paper, not all of which are recyclable in municipal systems, is just about 34% of the stream. Equipped with that knowledge, we have to ask ourselves “is there a huge opportunity to activate here?” And as park and recreation professional “how can we be part of the solution?”

For around four decades, PPR has operated the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center. The 16-acre facility processes wood waste, yard waste, and manure for City departments, residents, and the private world. The products include variations of mulch as well as compost free to residents and at a cost to private entities.

In late 2020, PPR entered a public-private partnership with Bennett Compost providing the local business space to operate their compost operation at an old park maintenance facility land in exchange for collections of food scraps from recreation centers across the system and a percent of finished compost donated back to PPR urban agriculture programs. What’s the impact there? With over 150 programmed recreation facilities across the city, and nearly 3 million meals served via all those programs per year, food scraps and waste management is an ever present issue in the system. First weigh the basic economic benefit to the City’s budget of removing that from the waste stream, plus the environmental benefit of keeping that material out of the landfill. Now add the fact that unlike a bale of aluminum that travels off to some distant location, possible overseas, the recycled product from composting can actually be used locally. Community residents, including park users, can use that product to restore their lawn, or start a new garden, or grow food.

Finally, 2020 also saw the birth of that other new compost program: the Community Compost Network. The most grassroots of PPR’s compost programs, CCN puts the ownership in the hands of community groups like neighborhood farms, gardens, and park groups. After constructing and delivering a standardized three-bin system to the site, PPR trains the group on proper operation and best practices. There’s even a CCN manual in the works that can be used by Network members and residents who want a little DIY alike. And what’s unique about these initiatives being based out of a park and rec system? Think of the generation of young Philadelphians who will be exposed to the practice of composting in their tot program or their afterschool space. How about the neighbors who are finally getting a new resource to be self-sufficient and resilient from a city park program. What better place to learn how to benefit their community and their environment?

Parks and Recreation: Continued Complicity or Time to Stand Up?

by Guest blogger, Jamie Sabbach

Why is it that “social equity” is part of parks and recreation’s daily nomenclature yet is not part of any substantive collective action? Public statements about helping those who are disenfranchised and not afforded equal opportunity while giving less than our best must be scrutinized as good intention only goes so far.

If we really pay attention to the news feeds right now we may deduce that today’s protests and riots, while prompted by a tragic action, are symptoms of something much bigger than any one issue. And the fundamental problems at the core of these symptoms have been lingering for a long time and out of plain sight of those insulated from many people’s heartbreaking realities.

Decades of inequality and ignorance have perpetuated intolerance, unacceptance of anything or anyone different, and a focus on “me” and not “we”. Fundamentally, this is the essence of social inequity and sadly, it painfully continues today.

Why is it that “social equity” is part of parks and recreation’s daily nomenclature yet is not part of any substantive collective action? Public statements about helping those who are disenfranchised and not afforded equal opportunity while giving less than our best must be scrutinized as good intention only goes so far.

In many ways, an equitable society seems like a distant fantasy. With what feels like irreversible damage having been done over the years and now on full display, anything short of a complete reconstruction of systems that are supposed to serve all people will not do.

Where to begin in our little corner of the world? We can start here understanding there is significantly more work that must be done.

First, let’s be clear that scholarships and reduced rates do not qualify as a comprehensive effort to address social equity. While financial assistance is a way to provide access for those in need, it is a singular method that is commonly under-utilized for many unfortunate reasons. Having a scholarship program does not opt us out of our responsibility to dig deeper to understand the barriers that many face. When we spend more time on satisfying wants than on understanding needs, we compromise opportunities for profound community impact. Connecting with local schools, public health providers, and other human services organizations can provide better optics of a community’s profile including sub-communities, which often tend to be overlooked and go unnoticed. Once a more complete understanding of the needs of the community as a whole are in focus, we can begin to design relevant strategies and actions that align with these needs. This work will always be more effective if done in collaboration with organizations of similar purpose.

2018 27 dorling inequality

Next? We must stop kneeling at the feet of entitled community members who have the resources to pay but do not want to by virtue of an inflated sense of self or an ignorance of how far their tax dollars actually go. For example, the $25 that youth sports groups pay to use fields that cost organizations tens of thousands of dollars each year to maintain is nothing less than a travesty (note: this metaphor represents any service that should not be subsidized to the degree they have or continue to be). Allowing special interests to raid the cookie jar time and time again only dilutes finite financial resources and limits opportunities to affect community needs. It is past time to stand up to those who have an ability to pay yet little to no willingness on behalf of those who rely on us and our voices to be their champions and advocates.

Finally, we should do all we can to ensure that policy makers are educated and informed about the communities they have been elected to represent. While many of these people believe they know it all, they may know very little about the community they serve. They are likely representing people who may never vote due to their mistrust of government, may never attend a meeting as they believe no one will listen and that the system is corrupt or pitted against them, and in some cases, may never engage simply because they fear government. Take a chance and begin a dialogue about designing an education and training program for policy makers based upon the critical and timely topic of “the common good.”

Will we actually learn something this time around and not allow our subconscious short-term memory to take us back to “normal” – a “normal” that was profoundly inadequate offering a way of life tilted heavily in favor of the vocal, entitled minority? Let’s hope so.

Fundraising Review – DIY consultation

I recently had the opportunity at the invitation of a Board President to visit a local non-profit and review their fundraising, in order to make suggestions and help them take their donations to the next level.

What I found was a wonderful warm group of people with a small overworked staff who does amazing work, a super marketing coordinator who puts out some of the best materials I’ve seen in a long time, innovative new programs, ongoing vital community services, and a really exciting new grant funded construction project.

They are rocking! They’ve got this, what can I possibly add to help?

Well, the need to increase their donors and find ways to encourage participants paying program fees to also make donations, plus engage a wider audience to attract new donors.

It occurred to me in sitting down to write this post that what I prepared for them might also work for you. Here are some things to consider:

  1. How is your social media?
    • Consider adding video or images that show how it “feels” to be a donor. Make it look really exciting and enticing to be part of that group
    • Consider using donor centered language. Instead of saying “Help us serve preschool children” say “You can raise up a child by supporting preschool programs” or “You can be the hero for a child!” (See below for more on this)
  2. Do you have a donor database or list?
    • Gather “everyone”: recent donors, old donors, sponsors, program attendees, vendors, grant coordinators, newsletter lists, etc – AND then ask your Board members to each provide 10 names who can be contacted. (They give their valuable time to your organization, why wouldn’t they want others in their sphere to know about your organization too?)
  3. Define Audience or Segments: who are your audiences, or communication segments, and is your message different or the same for each?
    • Insiders – those connected to and active with your programs
    • Connected – those who are familiar with your programs (think grandparents, teachers, etc)
    • Community – maybe these folks don’t know about your programs but wouldn’t it be great if they did?
  4. Make Donating Easy: I’ll say this simply: WHERE IS YOUR DONATE BUTTON? If I can’t click on your website and immediately see it, fix that first. Don’t lose people on their way to give because its not easy enough. After that:
    • Do you allow facebook fundraisers to be held on your behalf? (Awesome when someone chooses you to support during their birthday)
    • Can people set up a monthly gift? (excellent for cash flow)
    • Do you have a wishlist or list of programs/services they can support?
  5. Use Your Board:
    • Having an event? They get four extra tickets to bring people with them.
    • Having a fundraiser? They call people and champion your cause
    • Sending a mailing? They write a personal note on the mailing before it goes out AND write the thank you note when that person makes a gift.
    • (If they don’t or wont – explore why… consider bringing a consultant in to train them)
    • Ask the Executive Committee of the Board to start a “Give or Get” Policy. Each member has 12 calendar months to give or get $1000… if they want to write a check Jan 1, great. If they are not able to or don’t want to, they have 12 months to get creative with their kids, friends, church, pets, neighbors to raise $1000. Sounds fun, right??

If you don’t have time for all of this, then skip it and just read the rest because I want to talk again (like my last post) about Donor Centered Fundraising. In my experience and training, this has been my main focus. It’s a philosophy, a practice, a physiological exploration, and more. AND, it works.

This is the Very Best graphic I have ever seen to clearly show what we’re talking about. Read through – do you see the difference? Does it make you want to give? If you make no other changes, use this and change your wording. The donor wants to know where THEY fit in to the fantastic things you’re doing, not just about the fantastic things you’re doing. The full article that included this graphic is available here, authored by Cathy Elton.

I hope these suggestions were helpful! Please reach out and ask for help if you need it. You can improve your fundraising in small ways, even if it feels impossible now. Good luck!

Are we building people—or just running programs?

If recreation and parks are really essential services, are we measuring what truly matters?

Part of why recreation and parks doesn’t receive more of the rave respect it deserves, in my opinion, is because most people notice programs far more than the objectives behind them.

That’s not surprising. It’s always easier to focus on outward expressions than on internal improvements of the mind, body and soul.

When the summer pop-up gathering space arrives on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, so do outdoor yoga, fitness challenges and games galore. Tucked between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Philadelphia’s City Hall, the family-friendly urban park attracts a friendly, laid-back crowd with food, music, beer gardens, movies, golf, games and more. Credit: Visit Philadelphia.

But that’s where the common disconnect begins, I believe.

When we providers declare that recreation and parks are essential community services, what does that mean to our constituents? What is our bottom-line purpose of enabling quality leisure experiences? And are we cognizant enough of it?

• Is it just a walk in the park—or is it physical exercise, stress relief and mental rejuvenation?

• Is it merely a Paint With Me class (with wine!)—or is it stretching skills and enriching relationships?

• Is soccer practice just about scoring a trophy—or is it developing fine motor skills, building teamwork, modeling good sportsmanship, and growing cooperative social interactions among diverse teens, teams and talents?

• Is it merely an object of public art—or is it celebrating a cultural heritage, invigorating a downtown district, connecting destinations, and attracting visitors, tourists and new businesses?

• Is it just an evening activity—or is it character development, anti-ganging intervention, and preventative treatment for abusive and addictive behaviors?

Are we strategically planning with such measurable outcomes in mind, or are we satisfied that it was “fun”?

Here’s the crux: Are we building people—or just running programs? Are we purposefully collaborating with experts from other disciplines in meeting people’s needs? And are we measuring what truly matters?

Because here’s the other just-as-important part of our jobs: we must show it.

Moving beyond ROIs, attendees, and social media stats, are we documenting personal and social good in our value statements? Can we point to specific cases of cleaner resources, less waste, crises averted, problems solved, and healthier lifestyles? Are we enriching our neighbors’ lives, improving the livability of our cities, and ensuring a more equitable future?

If we are to convince a wider audience of the great worth of our indispensable services (and, in turn, influence higher funding and priorities by decision makers), we must deliver whole goods. We can’t merely insist that recreation and parks are essential, we must intentionally demonstrate it—and prove it!

HELP, I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

The aftermath of the goose poop slide. That was one of my favorite shirts.

The title of my latest blog entry should invoke images of a silver haired elderly woman crying out in panic as she stares up from the floor after tumbling out of the shower. If only she had Life Alert! What the title is actually referring to is me getting stuck in the 12 foot diving well of the Hampden Pool last pre-season with no way out. Yes, you read that correctly. Allow me to set the stage…

It was early June and I was draining and pressure washing our main pool to prepare it for acid washing. In any other year or time, I would have thought we were in the twilight zone if you would have said I’d be just starting to drain the pool in June. But, alas, COVID-19…anyhow, moving on. Our Board had just voted to open the Pool with COVID restrictions in place. IN 4 WEEKS! What normally would take me 8-12 weeks to accomplish, I had to tackle in 4!

Which brings me back to being stuck in the diving well. There I was, soaked in mud-we’ll pretend it was only mud…side note-while our department was furloughed for the month of April, a lovely goose couple moved in, set up shop, and had babies. (Now you know why I was telling myself it was only mud).  In the rush to finish the job, I hadn’t cleaned the ramp that led out of the diving well properly…or at all. One step on that thing and it was the goose poop slide to the bottom. While I composed myself (and muttered more than a few curse words), I learned some things down there.

  1. Never rush the job-I was under pressure to get things accomplished quickly, but I should have never rushed. Finishing the pressure washing of the ramp leading to the diving well would have negated me getting stuck in there. It is possible that I still could have slipped, but I would have been able to get out of there with a freshly cleaned ramp. Whether it be a grant application, the design of a program guide, or that latest social media post, don’t rush things. Put thought and sound decision making into every task you set out to accomplish.
  1. For some jobs, don’t work alone-Had I been working with someone else on this fine day, they could have thrown a rope to me or lowered a ladder, or called the fire company…I’m glad the fire company wasn’t called. I shudder to think about if I would have hit my head on the way down, or had some other injury that would have prevented me from actually recovering to my feet. If I had a partner there, if for nothing more than to ensure that I was able to accomplish the final task of cleaning the diving well, things would have been a little easier that day.
  1. Always have back up-Whether it be a person (see above), or a cell phone, always have a back-up plan if things go haywire. As I stood in the deep, deep diving well, I cursed myself for not tethering my being to something sturdy before I even got close to the ramp.

The good news is that, other than my ego, nothing else was bruised this time. And we finished everything we needed to in order to open the facility in four weeks. And we had a great season, all things considered. As for how I actually got out of the diving well? Ask me that in-person the next time you see me.

Why You Should Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment

What will you be doing on May 18? Did you think that date was just like any other? Well, it is much more than that… it is the 50th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA)… and that means it is a time to celebrate!

The Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

A young legislator from Sunbury, PA named Franklin Kury introduced this amendment to the state constitution in April of 1969. Environmental protection, he said, “has now become as vital to the good life— indeed, to life itself—as the protection of those fundamental political rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, of peaceful assembly and of privacy.”

At first you might wonder, are environmental rights really as important as the right to free speech? But think about it…consider the mental and physical health benefits we get from a clean environment, not to mention myriad economic benefits as well.

The Benefits of Environmental Rights

Pennsylvania is lucky to have a wealth of public lands that are free and open to anyone to use. Spending time in these places is great for your health. Studies show that outdoor recreation reduces stress, anxiety and depression, lowers the risk of obesity, helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduces your risk of cardiovascular issues.

The trees in our parks and forests remove pollutants in rainwater before it can reach our rivers and streams, and from the air before we breathe it in. These same trees help to reduce flooding, by slowing the rate of water movement, reducing flood control and water treatment costs.

Having the funding support to build new playgrounds, like this one at Blue Knob State Park, is thanks in part to the Environmental Rights Amendment.

How You Can Celebrate

The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF) invites you to participate in a different engagement activity each month to show your support for environmental conservation and public lands.

  • In May, you may submit a piece of visual art on the topic of “what preservation of the scenic value” means to you.
  • On May 18, join PPFF, StateImpact Pennsylvania, and WITF for a free virtual screening and panel discussion on the ERA’s anniversary.
  • In June, you can submit an essay on cultural resources in our parks and forests, discussing what “preservation of the historic value” means to you.
  • Along with the monthly art and writing submissions, now through August 1, 2021 people can submit to a song contest.

View the complete list of ways to engage at https://paparksandforests.org/our-work/education/era50 and be sure to follow #PAEnviroRights50 to find more ways to engage with and celebrate this landmark piece of legislation.