Explore Pennsylvania Trails

We’re celebrating trails in September in Pennsylvania!

We’re fortunate to have thousands of miles of trails of all types to hike, ride, and paddle. Just like local parks, they are waiting to be explored at little to no cost.

Trails connect places, are one of the best guides to nature, and more than 75 percent of Pennsylvanians believe that along with parks they are an essential part of our health care system.

PA Top Trail State

Where to Find a Trail

Anyone who wants to visit a trail but is not sure where to go can find 12,000 miles and events listed on the website www.explorePAtrails.com.

The website has recently been refreshed.  Key things to visit on the site now include a Calendar of Events, the Trail of the Year and a Featured Trail.  But the best part is you can search by trail name, your county or zip code, or the type of trail use to find your perfect path.

If your local trail is not on there, you can add it.

Learn more about trail experiences on this short video which is being placed on TV stations throughout the state during the month.

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Trail Partners

DCNR helps coordinate a 20-member Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee that represents many different types of users and stakeholders.  It advises the department of the use of state and federal trail funding.

The committee recently finished its 2017 Trails Report that is a great information source about planning, closing trail gaps to reach a goal of having a trail within 15 minutes of every Pennsylvanian, and lots of accomplishments for the year.

Pursue your trail!

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Be Tick Aware this Spring and Summer

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. During this month and throughout the year, it’s critical that Pennsylvanians understand if you’re spending time outdoors, you should learn about the disease and ways to prevent it.

Pennsylvania has the highest number of reported Lyme disease cases in the United States. Deer ticks — the main carriers of the disease — are found in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.

How should we help program participants and visitors protect themselves while enjoying the outdoors?

Recently, the Get Outdoors PA program did a webinar that was packed full of great information about ticks, Lyme disease, and prevention. It’s worth a listen.

Here’s a condensed version:

Check Yourself Thoroughly

While you can contract Lyme disease any time of the year, spring through mid-summer is the most dangerous time because deer ticks are in their nymph stage and are about the size of a poppy seed, making them difficult to find on your body.

The best way to enjoy the outdoors and protect yourself from the disease is to check yourself thoroughly for ticks right after coming inside from the outdoors.

It takes about seven hours for deer ticks to find soft tissue on your body, such as your scalp, armpits, and groin, and burrow into your skin, so check yourself immediately after being outside.DeerTickOne

 

How to Reduce Your Chances of Contracting Lyme Disease

While outdoors, you can take steps to reduce your chances of contracting the disease:

  • Wear light colored clothing to more easily spot ticks on you
  • Wear long sleeved shirts and full length pants, if the weather allows, and tuck your pants into your socks to make it more difficult for ticks to find your skin
  • Walk in the center of trails, and avoid brushing up against plants and grasses

What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

If you know you’ve had a tick bite, look for symptoms of Lyme disease, including fever, rash, paralysis, and arthritis.

It could take one to two weeks to show signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, and four to eight weeks to test positive for the disease.

Get Outdoors PA has a great rack card that can be printed and shared with park visitors or outdoor recreation program participants.

The key prevention tip: Always check yourself, children, and pets for ticks after being outside!

Think prevention, and enjoy the spring.

Recreation across Generations

Recently I had a conversation with a resident of a senior living community who told me she LOVED living there. As someone with an elderly parent and in-laws not so enthused about exploring different living options, I was uplifted.

The conversation occurred at the Nippenose Valley Village outside Williamsport in rural Lycoming County — a former red brick elementary school tucked in among farm fields and woods.

The former Nippenose Valley Elementary School closed in 2013. The building and grounds were purchased and refurbished as a personal care home.

The building rehabilitation itself is a cool story, but we were there to highlight the facility as a great model of how to provide opportunities for seniors and young people to interact and stay healthy.

Picture the seniors living in the rehabilitated school having their meals in the dining area immediately adjacent and open to the former gym with basketball court — where community members are walking laps, or kids from the recreational basketball team are practicing.

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Facilities at the building are offered for use by the community, including for clubs, athletics and scout groups.

In the coming year, with the help of a DCNR grant, residents getting some fresh air also will be able to watch visiting young family members, or families from the community, play on the upgraded playground equipment and park created from the old school playground.

The playground area was leased by the private owners to Limestone Township, which applied for the grant and provided some of the required match. The funding will support development of play equipment with required safety surfacing, landscaping, and other related site improvements. Future plans could include development of trails and walking paths around the building and grounds.

An internet search tells me that an estimated 50 percent of the U.S. population will be 50 or older this year. Also consider that with stiff competition from organized activities and screens of all types, teenagers, pre-teens and even young children need encouragement to be active like never before.

In the face of pressing public health concerns relating to obesity, adequate places to engage in physical activity are important to all ages.

Some communities are to be applauded for embracing the construction of “multigenerational centers” with amenities that appeal to young and old alike.

Nippenose Valley Park is proof that a smaller scale model, with a healthy dose of creativity, can bring seniors and young people together at a recreational site, offering exercise and wellness for all ages.

Green elements can increase support, funding for local parks

Be #StormwaterSmartPA

MMNC#3 (002)We think of our local parks as a green oasis in our communities.  In addition to being great places to play and beautiful to enjoy, they also can incorporate green infrastructure to help communities with managing stormwater, protecting wellheads, and ensuring clean water.

Green infrastructure provides municipal leaders and elected officials an additional reason and benefit to support the acquisition, planning, development, and maintenance of public recreation areas because it helps improve water quality and minimize flooding.

It also can provide opportunities for leveraging funding sources from other agencies and organizations outside of the traditional park and recreation realm.

For many years, DCNR has been working with communities and non-profit organizations to plan, acquire, develop and rehabilitate publicly owned conservation areas, parks, trails and waterway access points.

Recently, the department is leading an effort to plant forest buffers along waterways and investing in community tree planting.

What is green infrastructure?

Think of green infrastructure as a network of natural and semi-natural systems that manage stormwater runoff by slowing the rate of water flow, and filtering out harmful pollutants before they drain into waterways.

DCNR supports green elements in park and trail rehabilitation projects such as:

  • Porous pavement and asphalt for basketball and tennis courts
  • Permeable pavement in parking lots, overflow areas, trails, walkways
  • Trees plantings, infiltration basins, and drainage areas to temporary storage tanks that can be utilized for irrigation
  • Forest buffer habitat along streams, use of native trees and plants, pollinator gardens
  • Bio-retention gardens, green roofs, rain barrels, cisterns, rain gardens at concession stands, maintenance sheds, restrooms, and visitor centers
  • Porous pavement and asphalt, and bio swales for trails and pathways

Once these elements are incorporated, it’s great to help park users learn from the community’s example with educational signage, and even with educational programs.

In addition to the community revitalization and potential economic benefits, the federal government notes green infrastructure can enhance the diversity of park users; improve recreational value of parks; and create attractive park features.

And, when communities reduce flooding from stormwater runoff overflow in recreation areas, there’s more time to play due to less flooding of fields!

Funding for local parks with green infrastructure

DCNR offers grant funding for park and other outdoor recreation projects that can help municipalities with stormwater reduction. There is technical assistance and financial support for grants from a variety of funding sources including the Keystone and Environmental Stewardship funds and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Learn more about green and sustainable community parks, grants, and how the department can help on the DCNR website.

Be Stormwater Smart

Of course, parks aren’t the only places communities can and should address stormwater.

DEP is working with communities to improve water quality and manage stormwater.  Leaders from Lemoyne Borough, Lower Paxton and Susquehanna townships, and Harrisburg’s Capital Region Water share perspectives on tackling the stormwater management challenge in the DEP video Stormwater Management: Perspectives from Four Pennsylvania Municipalities.

Green parks are one option, but all communities and citizens are encouraged to be #StormwaterSmartPA.