Survey Says: 2022 York Heritage Rail Trail Survey Results

by Gwenyth Loose, CPRP, Executive Director, York County Rail Trail Authority

April 19, 2023

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on

It all began in 1997 with a phone call from someone wanting to volunteer their services to survey the growing number of visitors to the York County Heritage Rail Trail. The offer was being made by Carl Knoch, who would later go on to chair the York County Rail Trail Authority for an amazing eighteen years. But on this day, my curiosity peaked and I agreed to meet Carl to better understand the free services he was offering.

I was in my first year as project coordinator for the York County Rail Trail Authority and dipping my feet into writing grant applications. Maybe Carl’s offer could strengthen some of my responses to those challenging essay questions. You know the ones where my responses of “We have lots of people using the completed sections of our trail” and “All ages use the trail, mostly for cycling” were just not bringing in the grant funds. I needed data.

Since 1997, seven surveys have been completed on the Heritage Rail Trail, and the data collected has been used to garner over $16 million in grants. Yes, surveys offer a roadmap to success!

Here is a sampling of what the Heritage Rail Trail County Park 2022 User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis revealed. The full report will be available later this spring at

  • Annual visits were at 263,856.
  • Economic impact of $3.5 to $4.4 million annually to the local economy.
  • Over 77% of visitors are from York County, a steady increase from 62.7% in 1999.
  • Nearly 85% of visitors are over the age of 35, with the most represented groups being 56-65 and 66 and older.
  • Cycling continues to be the most popular activity constituting approx. 35%, while walking and jogging are on the rise at 29% and 12% respectively in 2022.
  • 67% of visitors use the trail for health & exercise, a steady increase from 44% in 2004.
  • Average spending per person per visit for soft-goods such as food and drink was a little over $20 in 2022.

Establishing the methodology for data collection and analysis is most important when planning to conduct a trail or park survey. In order to identify trends, it also becomes important to standardize the questions being asked.  Consistency in data collection includes conducting surveys at the same time of year, positioning trail counters at standard locations, and offering paper survey forms and a return box at each trailhead, even if a QR code is provided for online responses. While most of this work can be done by volunteers or staff, data analysis is best left to the experts. Perhaps the next time your office phone rings, the person on the line will be another “Carl Knoch.”


Leisure Education Perspectives

Jeff Witman, Ed.D, CTRS

Many recreation professionals get involved with leisure education with their program participants. This article focuses on providing context for these efforts. While the content, format and structure of leisure education efforts may vary the desired outcome typically involves empowerment and attitude adjustment.

One of my father’s favorite songs, which frequently was the background music for our suppers, can perhaps summarize the intent of leisure education programming.  The song is the Guy Lombardo standard “Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think” with its reminder that the “years go by as quickly as a wink.” So often we meet people who are or find themselves in, a rut of living for tomorrow, be it the weekend or vacation, or that illusory paradise – retirement.  Sacrifices of time, resources, relationships, and opportunities for enjoyment are inherent in this mindset.  Unrealistic expectations of our “future fun” may cause disenchantment when these experiences finally do arrive and fail to match our dreams of them.  Like the bored elementary schooler who can’t believe that the bell ending recess is ringing so soon, our greatest frustration may come with the realization that all our sacrifices were for something so transitory.  The alternative – infusion of the spirit and experiences of leisure in our everyday lifestyles can be a difficult proposition.  Habits are difficult to break.

Among the most challenging habits or attitudes we confront in working with people in leisure education are:

  • the sense of resigned helplessness, of feeling controlled by people or environment or circumstances which the person controlled, sees no hope of changing;
  • the sense of ennui, of being bored and tired and tired of being bored and bored with being tired and tired and bored of thinking how tired and bored we are and generally on a spiral in which everything becomes boring, tiring, or both (Stan Grabowski has described this as “dead from the skin in”);
  • the sense of aloneness, of being the only one unable to find pleasure in leisure, or make friends, or serve a pickleball over the net, or feel guilty about playing;
  • the sense of being superfluous, of literally killing time with one’s life, of not being a part of the big or any pictures, of having no legacy except perhaps the desire of others to not be like you;
  • the sense of complacency, smugness, and self -satisfaction with a lifestyle that even the casual observer can identify as not what it could be or even as harmful.

Keys to successful leadership of leisure education efforts include nurturance and support. Nurturance requires that leaders identify what participants need and want and then provide emotional and physical support- information, empathy, feedback and assistance.   

Leisure education succeeds to the extent that it allows individuals to reject negative attitudes and initiate habits that reinforce this rejection.  Relatively modest trials of this exist within the sheltered environments in which we conduct programs.  The real test of individuals’ commitment to change comes in the real world. Without a supportive facilitator or group, people face their actual ability to evidence a changed lifestyle.  Their success, it seems, relates in part to the attitude that the leisure education experience leaves them with.  It is probable that an enhanced sense of self-empowerment, the ability to both identify and solve problems and the willingness to set goals and try new things (view the clip below) is the critical legacy of involvement with leisure education programming.

How to Save on Your Electric Bill


Have you started to dread getting your electricity bill every month? Does the thought of wasting energy unnecessarily drive you up the wall? We understand. Home energy use is both expensive and, in an age of increasing environmental awareness, a source of nagging guilt for many people.

Homes use energy in complex ways, and there’s not just one easy fix for reducing your electric bill. The good news is that through a combination of behavioral changes and small upgrades, you can run a more energy-efficient home. Here are some tips to get you started:

Change Your Lighting

Replacing the lights in your home with energy-efficient compact fluorescent or LED bulbs is a small investment that can deliver big benefits. CFLs and LEDs are up to 75% more efficient than conventional lighting, although CFL bulbs do require special disposal. Today’s products are designed specifically for the home and give off a warm light that’s nothing like the harsh, institutional fluorescents you remember from high school.

Invest in a Smart Thermostat

If your home relies on electric heat, a smart thermostat puts a number of sophisticated tools for conserving energy in the palm of your hand. Smart thermostats allow you to easily program temperatures with greater precision and can be connected to your phone to optimize the performance of your HVAC appliances. As a result, a one-time investment can reduce your heating and cooling costs by between 20-30% each year, according to some estimates.

Keep Your Heating and Cooling System in Good Condition

Even with sophisticated tech such as a smart thermostat, your furnace and air conditioner need to be well maintained to deliver cost-effective performance all year long. Some regular preventative service — such as checking and changing the air filter as necessary — can be done easily on your own. However, an annual professional inspection is also necessary to confirm the performance of your system and identify signs of trouble before it leads to a breakdown.

Ensure Your Home is Properly Sealed

A well-sealed home will be easier to heat and cool, which means your HVAC appliances don’t have to work as hard. Prevent drafts by caulking and weather-stripping your windows and doors. You may also want to consider upgrading to a set of energy-efficient windows — while they can be a big investment, they will both lower your monthly electricity bill and add value to your home.

Choose the Best Utility Company for Your Needs

Several states, including Pennsylvania, allow residents to choose which electric supplier they prefer. This means you can shop to see which supplier would be best for your needs. Research different suppliers’ programs and whether a fixed or variable rate would be best for your family.

Run Appliances During Off-peak Times

Many electric companies offer a lower rate during off-peak hours, typically evenings and weekends. Planning to do laundry, wash dishes and run other appliances during these times is a great way to save on your monthly electricity bill.

Conserve While You Cook

Most people don’t realize that, for certain appliances, a microwave can be far more efficient than a conventional oven. While we don’t recommend cooking a pot roast in there, for reheating leftovers, boiling water for tea and a number of other quick tasks, using the microwave is both convenient and more efficient. You can save even more by using a slow cooker for soups and stews and, if you’re willing to brave the outdoors, barbecuing all year long.

Adjust Your Fridge Settings

Keeping your fridge temperature set properly not only prevents bacteria growth but can also reduce energy use and prevent unwanted freezing of food. Check your owner’s manual to determine where your fridge should be set and adjust accordingly.

Don’t Run Appliances Unnecessarily

Dishwashers, washers and dryers all take a lot of energy to run, so be judicious in when and how often you use them. Wait until your dishwasher is full before running it, don’t use your washer if you only have half a load of clothes, and air-dry items whenever possible. As an added bonus, using your appliances less will help them last longer and require less maintenance, too.

Unplug Before You Travel

Planning a trip? Don’t forget to unplug the electronics in your home before you leave. Computers, TVs and even lamps can all drain electricity when not in use, so make sure they’re properly shut down and unplugged before going away for an extended period.

Go Solar

Solar power systems are more affordable than ever before, particularly if you can take advantage of tax rebates and other incentives. As an alternative to an expensive full system installation, a dedicated solar water heater will cost less while still saving you money every month.

Make Energy Use an Everyday Priority

Ultimately, one of the best things you can do to save on your electric bill is simply to be more conscientious about how you use energy in your home. Turn off the lights when you leave a room, shut down your computer when not in use and open a window instead of running the A/C. Adopting these little habits will go a long way toward keeping your bills in check and making your home more energy-efficient overall.

Learn More On Our WalletWorks Page

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.

Maple Sugaring in the City

by Christina N. Moresi, M.Ed. (She/They), Environmental Education Planner, Pennypack Environmental Center

As an environmental educator in Philadelphia, winter is a time of preparation for spring. We spend our days cleaning, organizing, planning, creating, greeting adventurous winter visitors, teaching, and dreaming of our sweet Maple Sugar Season. 

Sugar season begins when the late winter nights are still freezing cold, but the days begin to warm. Once temperatures are consistently above freezing, and the trees begin to bud, we must pull the taps from the trees and say farewell to our sugaring days. Climate change has shortened our season, so we have four to six unpredictable weather weeks to introduce and engage as many children, families, and adults from in and around Philadelphia County in the sweet science of Maple Sugaring.

Our City streets and parks are full of maple trees, allowing us to dive deep into maple sugar lessons at our environmental centers, and even bring adapted fun to schools and recreation centers.

During Sugar Season, we take visiting schools and groups out to our maple trees and teach them how to: choose the best tree, drill and tap the trunk with a spile, collect the sap in a bucket, and boil the sap over the fire until it becomes sweet, sticky syrup.

Kids and adults alike are often surprised to see that the sap comes out of the tree looking more like water than syrup. The process of boiling the sap takes one or more days depending on the amount of sap in the evaporator.  We boil until enough of the water content has evaporated, and the sap, now syrup, has reached 219 degrees Fahrenheit and is thick with amber coloring. On average, it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Before we indulge in pancakes and real maple syrup, we give visitors a taste test to see if they can tell the difference between real maple syrup and flavored corn syrup. Kids often think the corn syrup is the real maple syrup, which does have a strong maple flavor. Adults are usually surprised to learn there is no maple syrup in pancake syrups. Despite the long list of ingredients, the word “maple” isn’t even on the bottle. Although lessons aren’t long enough for everyone to witness the entire process of sap to syrup, sampling syrup made last year on pancakes tastes just as sweet.

What I love most about Sugar Season, other than the syrup, is venturing out with the kids all bundled-up and hiking through the woods or on the farm. They are happy to be out of school, and I am happy they are outside. Our sugaring programs are not limited to schools and groups, but also include our annual Maple Sugar days that bring full-day activities, games, and demonstrations, including tapping trees, tasting syrups, sipping hot sap, snacking on pancakes, and sampling candy to three corners of Philadelphia and open to all.

Philadelphia’s environmental centers provide vital outdoor experiences while teaching and participating in the sustainable management of the country’s largest municipal park system. Research has shown that urban trees, farms, and natural areas are imperative to the improvement of citizens’ physical and mental health, the reduction of crime, and accessibility to fresh food, recreation, and exercise.  

Maple Sugaring is a unique experience for our community that we have the privilege of stewarding in our urban forests, and the joy of creating programming that brings the magic of sugaring to everyone.

It’s Cold Outside!

by Doug Knauss, CPRP, CPSI, Park & Recreation Director, Susquehanna Township

As many of us know field use is increasing every year and the opportunity to restore athletic fields becomes more and more limited.  Many practitioners try to enforce field closures to restore fields, limit use to restore fields, or just wait and sod fields in the spring with hopes that it will take hold and be ready for the upcoming season.  Many of these approaches are unsuccessful and can cause significant backlash from your community. 

Park maintenance plans can take a page out of the golf course management handbook and grow grass during the winter months with the use of turf blankets.  You may have seen these large white mats out on some athletic fields and may have been curious about what these are and their purpose.  Turf blankets are how you can grow grass all winter long when it is cold outside.  These blankets serve as lack of a better term “greenhouse” over the area of repair.  These blankets have proven to allow grass to grow all winter and when they are removed in early spring will reveal grass in areas in need of restoration you can then limit your time of field closures.  These blankets can be customized to the size you need and can last from 7 to 15 years, over time this is an inexpensive and successful way to restore an area over sod.

We over-aerate the repair area with multiple passes of a core aerator, lay down organic material or fertilizer over the repair area, and then seed.  We then cover the area with a turf blanket and secure it to the ground with ground stakes and then you let the magic happen.  We will remove the blankets in early spring and keep the area closed for about two weeks to allow for the grass to strengthen and then the fields will be open for use.

You can perform these types of field repairs up to about Thanksgiving and then remove the blankets in the first week or two of March.  We have found over time we shrink the area of repair each year due to the strength of the grass.

So, for an economical and successful field maintenance solution turf blankets could be your solution.

INSPIRE the Groups You Lead!

Jeff Witman, Ed.D., CTRS
Collier Township Parks & Recreation

Effective group leadership is fundamental to success as a recreation professional. Groups can help (e.g., synergy) but groups can also hurt (e.g., groupthink).

Synergy = an interaction or cooperation giving rise to a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts (Wikipedia)

Groupthink = a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people makes irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to conform or the belief that dissent is impossible. (Psychology Today)

 The leader can influence which way it goes. Here’s an acronym to focus on as you lead, facilitate, guide, coach, nurture, direct and serve the groups you work with. These 9 characteristics can make a difference!


I = Integrity

As Alan Simpson suggested, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters; If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” Fairness and honesty create a culture of integrity. Being genuine creates a bond with group members. Tip: Consider group agreements, as pictured below, to promote accountability. (These are from the leadership program at Dickinson College)

N = Nurturance

Leave people better than you found them. Be intentional about assessing where group members are and where they would like to be. You can’t nurture unless you know what’s needed and wanted. In addition, consider the creature comforts which make group gatherings more engaging and comfortable.  Tip: Establish a distinctive group identity. For example, Wellspan Philhaven chaplains recently developed the A-I-R (Acknowledge- Inspire- Reflect) frame of reference for their groups.

S = Support

Levels to consider- information, encouragement, honest feedback and assistance with tasks. The classic example with that last one: you’re moving, who shows up to help? Encourage group members to be of service to others- when you give you get! Tip- Spend some time with groups determining where they’re at. Any “baggage” they’re bringing along to your group?

P = Professionalism

The ideal- responsible, ethical and team-oriented. A key with this is focusing on the group (not on yourself) as you lead. Tip- Keep fairness in mind as you interact with the group. As Willie Stargell declared “Everybody is somebody!” Don’t let the “squeaky wheels” get all of the grease.

I = Innovation

While routines are important unless there’s novelty they will become ruts. Engage the group in determining how things can work better. Adopt an approach that change is an opportunity not a threat. Tip- Identify several aspects of a particular group where variety might spice things up- for example the music, the snack and the stretches for an exercise group. Engage participants in identifying alternatives for each and test them out in subsequent group sessions.

R = Resilience

Show some grit- persistence + passion = thriving not just surviving. Make some lemonade out of the lemons situations throw at you. Devote some effort to self-care recognizing that your effectiveness depends on being the best version of yourself. Tip- Model resilience with the attitude and actions you exhibit when “shift happens”. Demonstrate that “well-prepared people create their own weather” with a plan B or plan C that allows the group to cope not mope.

E = Energy, Empathy and Efficacy

With energy consider vitality, a combination of vim (the burst needed sometimes) and vigor (endurance). With empathy it’s about communicating your understanding of another person’s emotions. To promote efficacy determine and document that the groups you lead are, in fact, generating the outcomes you promote and promise. Tips- For energy consider a 30- minute limit on sitting during groups. With empathy institute a no disses approach where negativity about self or others is not allowed. Remember too that “silver lining” remarks are seldom helpful. If a participant says “My car needs a lot of repairs” and you say “At least you have a car” it’s not going to improve the situation. For efficacy find out if your goals are being met. With the recent Pickleball Camp at Collier Township for example the majority of participants have increased their amount of play.

A Case Study

The support group I was leading at Faith Friendship was not very supportive. Low morale, limited interaction and apparent disinterest. We needed a boost and found one with an activity that, amazingly, has been found to:

Relieve Stress

• Reduce Anxiety
• Improve Sleep
• Heighten Focus
• Improve Motor Skills
• Induce A Meditative State
• Relax your Brain and
  • Improve Brain Function

The answer was making the activity below a regular part of the group, integrating it into our themes and allowing group members to utilize it as a tool for coping. This activity, obviously, is not the answer for every group concern or problem. There are answers however if you’re willing to try new approaches. Find the attitude, activity or process that can revitalize and reinvigorate the groups you lead. it’s a win-win for participants and for you!

Coloring: Not just for kids anymore!

Scientific Literature Review: Environmental Education

A recent study conducted by Slippery Rock University found that people from historically marginalized groups may find it difficult to connect to traditional modes of environmental education, because of the history and attitudes associated with the programs. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy works to provide a space for people of all identities to embrace environmental education.

Photo by Marta Wave on

The purpose of environmental education is to provide learners with skills and knowledge to protect and improve the environment around them. Environmental education should be solution-oriented, grounded in the local environment, and focus on helping learners develop their own “environmental identity.” Your environmental identity helps you connect to the natural world. This could be based on your own personal experiences with the outdoors, the culture you were raised in, or even the history that you were taught about the natural world.

Studies have shown that people with marginalized identities may view outdoor hobbies or “green” activities as inaccessible or not welcoming. This is due to a lot of different aspects of conventional environmental education programs, including them mostly being located in predominantly white areas, lacking non-white role models, and focusing only on nature through the lens of white history and culture. Historically, many environmental education programs push one kind of environmental identity onto people, rather than helping them to develop their own unique identity. 

At the Parks Conservancy, we are committed to welcoming all of Pittsburgh’s people and communities to our programs and events, as well as working to combat prejudices. We strive to educate not only on scientific issues related to the environment, but also on the environment’s impact on social issues. Events like Forest Bathing in support of the LGBTQ+ community and Walking the Healing Path for members of the Jewish community affected by violence focus on bringing people together in nature. The Conservancy holds a Juneteenth concert to celebrate the Black community of Pittsburgh, while events in the “From Slavery to Freedom Garden” are generally dedicated to confronting the history of colonialism instead of erasing cultural history. 

Many marginalized peoples have strong ties to the environment, through their culture and history. The Parks Conservancy works to honor these ties and provide a welcoming space for people of all races, ethnicities, and identities to develop their own environmental identity and embrace the city’s green spaces in whatever capacity speaks to them. 

Please click the following link to read the complete study:

5 Ways to Keep Your Information Safe on Social Media


Social media is a great tool that allows you to stay in touch with family and friends, as well as engage with both personal and professional online communities that are relevant to you. Keep your experience with social media positive and be proactive in protecting yourself and keeping your information safe by following these tips below.

1. Set Strong Passwords

One of the most basic things you can do to protect your information is to create strong passwords for all your accounts, including any social media platforms you use.

What constitutes a strong password?

It isn’t easy to guess. This means commonly known things about you such as your birthday, dog’s name, house number, anniversary date, etc., are not included in your password.  Also, it should go without saying that you shouldn’t use “password” as your password.

It has a mix of character types. Some sites require specific combinations, but others’ password requirements aren’t very robust. Use a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters/symbols.

• It is at least 12 characters long. Shorter passwords are easier to guess. The longer you make it, the harder it’ll be to compromise.

2. Don’t Post Sensitive Information

In an increasingly digital world, it’s understandable that you want to share major life events with your online community, especially if that’s how you stay in touch with family and friends. However, think twice about what you’re posting. Don’t post things like:

Your photo IDs. Have a new driver in your house? Starting a new job? It’s tempting to snap a photo of your new ID to share your excitement. However, these can contain sensitive information like your full date of birth (including the year) and ID number (i.e., driver’s license number or employee number.) That’s information that’s best kept to yourself.

Financial account information. Many companies have a social media presence to engage with their customers or members. While social media platforms have become a common place to interact with brands when you need assistance or want to share a good or bad experience, be careful not to overshare. For instance, if you’re communicating with your financial institution, you don’t want to share your account information over social media, such as your account number or PIN. While you can certainly use social media to reach out with general questions, keep specific account questions contained to secure communication channels provided by the company.

3. Pause Before Sharing Photos

Before you post a photo, stop and think. Consider the following:

Is it a photo you’re willing to let anyone see? Even though you may have security settings in place, it’s easy for anyone to take a screenshot of what you’ve shared and show it to anyone else they know.

Are you OK with it being online forever? Even if you delete it later, once something is online, it exists online forever. So that photo of your kid in the bathtub that may seem cute right now may not seem so cute when they’re old enough to have their own online identity.

Is there anything sensitive in the background? Laptop screens, work notes, and bulletin boards that aren’t the focal point of a photo may seem harmless but can often still be easily read. Make sure anything appearing in the background of a photo doesn’t contain sensitive information that could compromise your finances, identity, or confidential information from your workplace.

4. Monitor Your Security Settings

While not foolproof, having strong security settings is an important part of protecting your information online. This goes beyond the password tips we shared earlier and includes:

Keeping your profile private. Most social media sites have settings that allow you to limit the visibility of your posts to your “friends.” This keeps strangers from accessing information about you or gaining too much of a glimpse into your personal life.

Only connecting with people you know. Keeping your profile private is only effective if you’re truly selective in who you connect with online. Don’t connect with people you don’t know and watch out for fake profiles imitating people you do know.

Reviewing your settings regularly. Especially after an update, sometimes social media sites change their security settings and may automatically set new ones for you. This is often in the fine print of an update or user agreement you accept. Set a regular time to review your settings, making an extra effort to do so after an update is installed to ensure you know what you’re permitting on the site (i.e., who can see your profile, who can tag you in photos, and what information about you is public.)

5. Stay Up to Date on Security Trends

Social media is always evolving, so it’s important to stay current on what kinds of scams are trending and emerging so you can protect your personal information. As a trusted financial partner, we make it a priority to share this information with our members and the communities we serve regularly.

To learn more about scams and how you can protect your identity and your information, check out the security section of our blog at

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.

Guided By Birds: Avian data to guide Clayton Hill restoration

by Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Forest restoration is a moving target. To measure the impacts and progress of restoration efforts practitioners must choose certain quantifiable elements of an ecosystem that can indicate habitat quality. For the restoration site in Frick Park known as Clayton Hill, we have been monitoring bird species during the summer breeding and fall migration seasons to interpret the habitat quality of the areas we are working to restore. Metrics about avian populations provide us with an honest evaluation of the function of our restoration sites because they are not something that we can directly control (as opposed to things like plant species diversity, or forest canopy cover which we actively change through native species plantings). Now, two years into our avian monitoring process our partners at the Western PA Conservancy (WPC) have compiled our first summary report about the bird species that rely on Clayton Hill for fall migration and summer breeding habitat.

To monitor the birds on Clayton Hill, we divided the whole restoration area into four monitoring units (Fig 1). We divided the site this way to control for topographic features such as aspect (north facing vs south facing), elevation (ridge top vs creek bottom), or slope (flat land vs steep hillside) that might inherently attract different bird communities. By monitoring these areas separately, we can also determine if specific units seem to be increasing or decreasing in avian habitat value. In turn, this helps us determine priorities for future restoration efforts.

While it may seem straightforward at first, any ecological monitoring is a time-consuming task. Good data is dependent on repeated sampling, and it can be challenging to acquire the human-capacity required to collect all the information we’d like. Fortunately, through the eBird app we can utilize the observations of volunteer citizen scientists to help monitor the Clayton Hill restoration area. eBird is a product of The Cornell Lab or Ornithology, and it provides a platform that birders everywhere can use to record their bird observations. Partners from the WPC and Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s (CMNH) Powdermill Nature Reserve established ‘eBird hotspots’ for each Clayton Hill restoration unit. By logging bird observation to these eBird hotspots, bird-watching park users are able to perform bird surveys on their own time in our specific monitoring units. These citizen scientists are imperative for the continued monitoring and successful progress of our ecological restoration work.

In 2020 and 2021, researchers and citizen scientists observed 116 species of birds utilizing the Clayton Hill restoration area during the breeding and fall migration seasons (Table 1, below). The Clayton North monitoring unit had the highest species richness (the highest number of unique species observed) in 3 of the 4 monitoring periods (Figure 1). We saw the lowest species richness in the “Nature Trail East” unit, but also had the fewest number of checklists completed in this area (Figure 2). Total bird abundance (the number of individual birds observed) varied across sites and seasons, however, survey effort was also inconsistent across seasons, which likely added variance to these early data. For more details, you can view the full report here.

While these data are interesting on their own, the most useful data for evaluating restoration will come from our ability to identify trends over time. These first two years of data are only the baseline numbers that we can use for future comparisons. In the coming years our dataset will grow alongside our restoration plants, and as it does we hope to discover new insights about the changing quality of the Clayton Hill habitat. In the meantime, patience is a requirement. Meaningful restoration occurs on the timescale of years to decades, as it takes plants that long to become established and even longer for them to serve their full suite of ecosystem services. As the native species that we’ve added to Clayton Hill grow, we hope they will provide food and improve habitat for a wide range of bird species. But if we grow it, will they come? Although birds have been observed to show remarkable memory for quality habitat along their migration routes (Mettke-Hofmann and Gwinner. 2003), they first have to discover a site worth remembering. For this reason, it’s important that we’re always looking for opportunities to scale up our restoration efforts and improve connectivity between forest sites.

Already, partners who’ve been working on the Clayton Hill restoration project are using initial observations of avian habitat quality to inform our next management steps. An invasive annual grass called Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) has been steadily expanding through much of Clayton North and Clayton East, and an alarm has been raised that this grass is causing trouble for ground-dwelling migratory songbirds. Given this reality, we are focusing on the habitat needs of those species when designing future projects and workplans – for instance planting shrubs and perennials that will stand up (literally) against the crushing weight of a field of bolting stiltgrass (below).

At Clayton Hill, we are several years into our work facilitating regeneration of native forest habitat but we are still decades away from our goal of achieving a stable, productive, and biodiverse urban forest ecosystem. The presence and abundance of bird species that thrive in healthy native forest communities will keep us honest about our progress, while the tireless work and passion of our many partners keeps us all moving forward in the best ways that we know how. If you’re interested in learning more, we invite you to come out for our fall World Migratory Bird Day event at the Frick Environmental Center on October 8. We also welcome all birders to submit an eBird checklist using our Clayton Hill Hotspots!

This project would not be possible without the joint efforts of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Allegheny GoatScape, the Allegheny County Bird Alliance, and the dozens of citizen scientists, volunteers, and donating organizations who’ve contributed to this project. The Clayton Hill Restoration work has been supported by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and donations from Pittsburgh’s park users.

Consistent Patience and Perseverance, Habits Worth Having!

by Jeff Witman, CTRS, Collier Township Parks and Recreation

“Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance” Abagail Adams

“The ultimate test of patience and perseverance- waiting in line.”

The ups and downs of coping with unpredictable people and weather I encountered when helping with several camp programs this summer reminded me of two critical characteristics for success with program leadership. While there are many valuable traits- creativity, enthusiasm, passion and confidence for example- the two of particular value for facing challenges and achieving success are patience and perseverance.

The challenge of developing patience and perseverance is that you need patience and perseverance to develop patience and perseverance. It’s easy to find ideas on how to be more patient. It’s difficult though to break habits of impatience. We can “awfulize” most any situation into being the worst ever. For me, it calls for technical assistance from companies I do business with. Long waits, difficulty comprehending instructions (often magnified by my technological incompetence) and rudeness leave me a wreck- frustrated, angry and not in control. While not a cure-all some simple practices have allowed me to cope not mope with these situations. First I’ve learned to anticipate that these situations might be a problem, replace thinking these situations are intolerable with considering them an inconvenience and when the anxiety starts to rise breathing deep and telling myself this too shall pass. The key for me is to remember that the world is not going to treat me exactly like I want to be treated. Here’s a few specific ideas to practice patience. With each think of a situation where you would benefit from applying them.

• Pause/think before you speak (or hit the send button)
• Slow down (juggle fewer balls)
• Delay gratification (save some $’s, calories, guilt)

Psychologist Jane Bolton has shared the purpose of cultivating patience in yourself- “ In a word, happiness: better relationships, more success. Well worth the effort, I’d say. But effort, indeed, it takes.”

Effort also relates to persistence or perseverance. In competitive situations, we need the will to prepare to win not just the will to win. With repetition comes the strength to diminish resistance. This comes out for me with maintaining a nearly 3500 straight day habit of walking for at least 30 consecutive minutes. I’ve built up a depth of resolve that allows me to overcome challenges to my “streak.”

Angela Duckworth’s best-seller Grit details how coupled with passion, perseverance creates grit which results in sustained commitment and achievement. She suggests the following examples of perseverance. Consider how much they do or don’t sound like you:

• I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.
• I am diligent. I never give up.
• I finish whatever I begin.
• I am a hard worker.
• Setbacks don’t discourage me. I don’t give up easily.

Finally, think about a habit you would like to develop and be persistent within each domain (examples in parentheses)

Physical (daily stretching)
Social (weekly card game with friends)
Emotional (daily journaling)
Spiritual (daily prayer)
Cognitive (daily puzzle)

Patience and perseverance are different but complimentary. As naturalist Hal Borland framed it:

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate perseverance.

May you show patience in your journey toward perseverance and perseverance in your pursuit of patience. After you have considered how best to move toward “consistent patience and perseverance” fill in the blanks with the statements below:

A habit I’m going to develop is ______________________________________________.

My plan for getting it started is to_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

The benefits of this habit will be_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

I am making at least a 100- day commitment to this effort


Here’s the full “Grit Scale” from Angela Duckworth:

This article is adapted from Signs of Habitual Thriving by Abagail Bernard and Jeff Witman (2022).

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