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.

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Sliding into the New Year

demo of old slide

So we’re going to replace our old waterslide with a brand spanking new double-flume waterslide? Yesssssss, that’s so exciting! It will be an amazing addition to our facility for the 2023 season. Wait….you’re kidding….we’re going to construct and open it during the season of 2022….guess I better put on my big boy pants for this one…

Yes, I was involved with the construction and opening of a waterslide mid-season. It was a fun, sometimes difficult, but rewarding process. What started as a single-flume waterslide in late 2021, blossomed into a double flume waterslide that would be a marked improvement over the previous version.

new double-flume slide

Things we had to contend with, in no particular order…

  • An abbreviated timeline-we wanted this slide to be open for our patrons to use during the 2022 season. We knew this would require us to be as efficient as possible. Quicker demo, quicker site prep, quicker construction, etc. In this regard, the weather actually helped us out and we were able to have the site prepped for the waterslide in a very good time. As you can see, though, that led to some other issues…
  • Lead times-we’ve all heard it in the news and read it in the headlines. Lead times are sometimes 6-12 months longer than they were pre-Covid. The early days of Covid, where the store shelves were decimated and void of toilet paper were truly signs of things to come in the realm of supply chain issues.
  • Public perception-the contractors that we worked with did a great job of getting the site prepped before Memorial Day. But the problem that this created was that people thought the slide should just come in the next day and be put up like a Lego set. And because the site was prepped so quickly, the public perception was that we weren’t doing anything, when in fact we were waiting on the flume and tower to be fabricated, pumps/motors to be shipped, piping for plumbing to be shipped, etc.

When members saw that we were going to be having a slide installed and available during the 2022 season, they, just like us, hoped it would be opening weekend as opposed to mid-season. At any rate, even with all the curveballs we saw, we were able to see the flume and tower being assembled in mid-July, which was a miracle in my eyes. Progress was able to be seen each day as the tower and flume took shape. And when the slides officially opened and I once again saw a line of people on the tower waiting to slide down, a smile came across my face. And maybe a sigh of relief as well!

Happy New Year!

Put a Big Fat Gold Sticker on your Program!

2022 PRPS Conference & Expo Award Winners from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Each spring, PRPS members gather at the Annual PRPS Conference & Expo to learn about emerging programming, discuss industry-wide best practices and of course, socialize! But it’s also a chance to recognize individuals, departments and programs for outstanding achievement over the last year via our Awards program, chaired and MC’d by the always funny and eloquent Barry Bessler.

We leave every conference blown away by all the cool stuff that people are doing around the state. That said, we don’t think we get enough award applications. We’re talking to you park and rec professional, sitting behind a desk sipping coffee, enjoying the calm before 2023 comes in with a bang! We totally get it. 2022 is becoming smaller and smaller in the rear view as you zoom towards whatever is “next.” But stay here in the moment for one more second. Take a minute to think about it, your community benefited from something you did, that was really awesome. In our opinion, many park and rec folks do it because they love it, which is great. But they are uncomfortable with the final step of any program, event, green and sustainable development/practices and calendar year…validation. In a municipal environment where parks and recreation falls below police, fire, streets etc. you have to play your hand to the best of your ability, and awards are one of the best and easiest ways we can validate our departments in the eyes of elected officials and the general public.

The best thing about the awards application itself, is you get the answers to the test ahead of time! Specifically for the Excellence awards, the application is looking for the POWER principles:

Positions public parks and recreation as an essential community service. Tell how the entry advances the role and importance of public parks and recreation, shows the benefits of parks and recreation, and improves the quality of life in the community.

Tip: Get quotes from participants, volunteers etc. Quantify the impacts. Survey your participants with respect to “quality of life” and “benefits.”

Outcome based. Describe the problem, issue, or opportunity and how the entry provided a solution to it.

Tip: Think back to why you started planning this program? Community need? Perceived hole in services? Quantify!

Wow Factor. Explain how the entry advances parks and recreation in the community through a major accomplishment, innovation, or a creative approach to managing and/or providing public parks and recreation. Describe how the entry demonstrates creativity and innovation. This can range from start – up efforts made to establish parks and recreation, or a small but mighty effort to make something happen where parks and recreation is struggling, to the initiative of a well-established parks and recreation organization.

Tip: What made your event/program noteworthy? It could be “just” an Egg Hunt, but maybe you had auditory eggs for those with hearing loss or you incorporated fifteen community groups to pull it off.

Effects change. Address how the entry deals with an important issue in the field of parks and recreation such as environmental stewardship, connecting people to nature, active healthy living, or social equity. Describe how it demonstrates strategies, resources, and outreach methods to increase public awareness, or other means that produce results.

Tip: This is probably the hardest POWER principle to answer. Reviewing your “outcome” answer will lead you down the path. Look at your park and rec strategic plan, NRPA Pillars etc. and think big picture. You might be thinking “I’m a small department, can’t compete with Philly”…but that’s hogwash! Talk about saturation. You might have a small program, but one that really saturates your community and is vital, tell that story.

Resourcefulness. Present how the entry used creative resources and outreach methods to generate support from a variety of sources including partnerships in the public, private and non-profit sectors,use of private funds, lands, facilities, or expertise, or secured support from policy makers or elected officials. 

Tip: You got this! Park and rec people always have to scrape and claw their way to make things happen. Really dive deep in and discuss your internal and external partnerships and how your community came together to pull off your event/program.

Also remember there are not only opportunities to showcase your programs: you can showcase yourself, your colleagues, agency and also your parks through your dedication to green and sustainable practices by submitting an application for the Outstanding Achievement Award, Distinguished Member Award, Outstanding New Professional, Community Champion, Agency of the Year and Green Parks Awards. You are amazing at what you do…apply!

OK, that’s it everyone. All year long you’ve been creative and resourceful. You’ve spent more weekends in the park than with your family. You’ve pulled trash from a can in the morning and put on a full suit for a budget meeting that night. Sounds crazy, but that’s our profession. Now take the moment you’ve earned, and apply for a PRPS Award.

Apply here: https://prps.org/Awards

See you in March!

The PRPS Awards Committee

2022 Agency of the Year – Upper Dublin Township

Two Ears & a Mouth

/ˈnetwərkiNG/

Learn to pronounce
noun

1. 1. the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.

What happens when you show up at a conference, a career fair, or a roundtable event? Do you dive straight into the crowd and start mingling? Do you gently work your way in? Or, do you back into a corner and break out in a cold sweat?

For many people, networking is a terrifying, disabling prospect. This may be because they’re introspective, introverted, unconfident, shy, hindered by bad experiences, or simply new to it. Whatever the cause, a fear of networking can be hard to overcome once it’s established.

The good news is that none of us are born with a natural talent for networking, even the people who really enjoy it. Networking isn’t an “innate” ability, it’s a skill that anyone can learn. You don’t have to be a smooth operator or an extrovert go-getter to be successful; you just need to use the right strategies.

Networking takes many of us out of our comfort zones, but it is possible to overcome our fears when we use the right strategies.

To overcome a fear of networking:
1. Be selective about the events that you attend.
2. Research other attendees’ backgrounds to get useful information.
3. Set realistic, meaningful goals.
4. Think about what you’ll say, and listen to the responses.
5. Arrive early so that you can assess your surroundings.
6. Bring a colleague or friend for support.
7. Mind your body language and try to keep an open posture.
8. Go easy on yourself.
9. Take time out during the event to “recharge your batteries.”
10. Know when to move on from a conversation.

Remember, when networking, it is important to be a good listener, have a positive collaborative attitude, be sincere and authentic, follow up, be trustworthy, and be approachable.

Practical Marketing for Recreation Events

You’ve ordered all the supplies, scheduled the staff, and worked out the logistics and schedule for your next event. Now you have to market it!

As I write this, I’m marketing Montgomery Township’s 20th Annual Autumn Festival. With so many moving parts, there’s a lot to communicate. There are also a lot of places to put the message, and the channels of communication seem to keep stacking up. It’s enough to make my head spin, and event marketing is a major part of my job as a Public Information Coordinator.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a graphic designer or social media wizard to get the ball rolling. Below are some quick tips to put together a practical marketing plan for your programs and events.

What do you do if you don’t have a knack for marketing?

Start with what you know

Begin by simply listing the basic information:

  • What is the event’s name?
  • Where will it take place?
  • When will it take place?
  • Who is it for?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What is included?
  • Who can people contact for more information, or where can they go to find information?

Select supporting photos

If this is a recurring event or program, select a few photos from the last time you held it. These don’t have to be professional quality, but they should showcase some of the activities that take place. People respond more to programs and events that show engaged attendees having a great time.

If you don’t have photos, pick an image or two using a program such as Canva that represent the event. Canva offers a free version to begin designing.

Design a flyer

Don’t be intimidated by the word “design.” You can use Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, Canva, or any other program you are comfortable with to make the flyer. As long as it has the answers to the basic questions and a few photos or clipart graphics, your flyer will get the message across.

Pick Your Channels

This is where it gets tricky. Instead of getting into the many channels, you can use to communicate, just think of what you currently have. My recommendation is to have the following:

  • Website – This is your home base where all information is available. All social media posts and email newsletters about the event should directly link back to your website or event-specific webpage.
  • Social Media –Stick to one platform and do it well. If you’re comfortable expanding to more social media platforms, go for it at the right pace for your organization. If all you have is Facebook, that’s great! Despite what you hear about the decline of Facebook as a social media platform, it is still my experience that you will engage with the most members of your community on Facebook than other social media platforms.
  • Email Newsletter – Ideally you have access to an email newsletter platform. Putting your information in front of people who specifically opt in to receive your updates has tremendous value and is extremely effective.
  • Print Media – Many organizations are reevaluating their relationship with print media. It’s expensive to print and mail, but it does help reach the population less comfortable with using the internet. Including basic information with some direction about where to find more information can at least increase awareness of your event.
  • Local news outlets – Form relationships with your local news outlets so they can publish your event on their website.
  • Word of Mouth – I assure you, people are talking to their friends and family about events as you share information. In fact, this is the best marketing you can ask for!

Work with Your Communication/Public Information Office

If you have a good relationship with your coworkers responsible for Communication/Public Information, use them as a resource! Their job is to get the word out. As someone who has been on both the Recreation programming and Public Information sides, I cannot stress enough how important this relationship is if your municipality has the resources. As long as you provide accurate information for your Public Information Coordinator to work with, they can help get the message out to the public.

I hope this provides a basic overview of how to market your event using the resources you have. There’s nothing groundbreaking here. Like most other things, it’s about mastering the fundamentals.

 If you have questions, reach out to me at dmuller@montgomerytwp.org . Happy marketing!

A Day in the Life

by Jeremy Mortorff

Date: Any sweltering day in June, July, or August

Location: Unnamed aquatic facility in Central Pennsylvania

10:15am-Clocking in for the day

Getting in a little early for my shift today. Starting the day with adult fitness hour. Wonder how many fights I’ll have to break-up between the walkers and the lap swimmers? Can’t we all just get along?

10:30am-Grab my tube, hip pack, and head out to the stand

Looks like a pretty large group of patrons today for fitness hour. We have our regular lap swimmers and a few fresh faces. Must be because the local indoor fitness center pool is closed.

11:45am-Summer camp arrives

Ahhh yes, the influx of K-5 aged children. Hoping that the supervision is good today. We have summer camps from around the area that bring their groups to our facility on a weekly basis.

12:30pm-More people, more people

We are definitely reaching capacity today. That line at the admission desk hasn’t let up since we opened. Makes sense since it is the first 90 degree day we’ve had in a week or so. Hoping that the ”on-call” guard actually comes in today when requested…

2pm-I’m going in!!!

I scan my zone, left to right, top to middle, middle to bottom. Everything has gone great so far today. Parents have been really attentive, being right there within arm’s length of their children. Summer camp counselors have been outstanding. Other guards have been awesome too – addressing issues before they become large problems. I continue to scan…that child that just went down the waterslide…they look panicked. Their eyes are bugging out…they’re stuck in the current at the bottom of the slide…TWEET-TWEET-TWEET!!!

2:05pm-Paperwork

One of the responding guards carries a clipboard with a rescue report and we locate the adult responsible for the child. They are shocked that their child required saving. I explain that the current at the bottom of the water slide is very strong and that can sometimes present issues, even for a decent swimmer. We have the adult help us fill out the report. They tell the child they’ll have to skip the slide until they can get out of the current successfully. The adult thanks us for being there to keep their child safe. This makes it worth it!

4pm-People leaving…aka the Mass Exodus

It’s 4pm and a lot of guests are now leaving for the day. Off to get Chick-fil-A for their quick dinner before baseball and softball practice tonight. Summer camps have gone too, so the crowds are much more manageable now. Though it isn’t all sunshine and roses. There is a rowdy group of young men that are continually dismissing the requests of lifeguards and begin mocking them. I’m the lucky target right now…

6pm-DENIM

“Sir, I’m sorry, but you can’t swim in denim pants.” The confused look on his face indicates to me that he doesn’t understand or just doesn’t care. I double tweet to get a manager out to take it from there. The manager comes out and immediately understands my struggle. They calmly explain to the guest the reasons why denim is not an acceptable form of swimming attire. The entire time I’m thinking to myself wet jeans CANNOT be comfortable…

7pm-Swim lessons

This is my favorite time of day. I love teaching our children and youth swimming skills. After all, swimming is a life-skill and everyone can benefit from it! The group of children I have this week are amazing! They are really engaged, listening, and trying all of the skills we present. The safety topic each day is my favorite part!

8pm-Closing time

It’s 8pm and we close the facility for the day. My chore today is the bath house, which is lovely because it usually takes all visitors at least 20 minutes to finish up in there after closing. What exactly are they doing in there???

Anyhow, I take the time to help out with the organizing of the guard office and bag a few rounds of trash. The amount of trash that is made on a busy day at an aquatic facility is mind-blowing.

The last patron exits the bath house and I head in there, gloved up, to assess the damages. Not too bad, amazingly. That means that my fellow guards did a great job when they had their checks throughout the day. It’s just a few paper towels, a diaper (really????), a pair of goggles and a towel.

I check in with the Head Guard and then head to the manager’s office to fill out my timesheet. Today is the end of our pay period, so I take a little extra time to check my math, total my timesheet, sign it, and hand it to the manager on duty.

As I head out to my car, I reflect on the day, especially the rescue that I had. Thank goodness for our in-service training schedule that keeps us sharp and ready to respond to any emergency that could come our way. While I dread the early mornings and late nights when they take place, these are the moments I’m grateful for the thoroughness of our training. 

Here’s to hoping that tomorrow someone doesn’t try to swim in a velour sweatsuit…

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 Pexels.com

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: https://pittsburghparks.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/VES-Final-Draft.pdf

5 Ways to Keep Your Information Safe on Social Media

by PSECU

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 blog.psecu.com/tag/security.

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.

Be More than a FAN

Members and Friends of PRPS:

I hope this finds you enjoying the end of the summer months.  As we look to great anticipation of the fall, and all the time it usually brings the soul in regards to relaxation, my hope for you is that you get to enjoy some “outside” time, with family and friends around the campfires across the state. May you enjoy the changing colors of the scenery, the chill in the air, your favorite sweatshirt, pumpkins and spices, as well as some good ole football.

 Regardless of what region you live in, (Yes, I know you PRPS members right away think of all the Districts) but the normal Pennsylvanian thinks from the Dutch Country, Laurel Highlands, Leigh Valley, Pennsylvania Wilds, Pennsylvania Great Lakes Region, Philadelphia and the countryside, Pittsburgh and its countryside, to the Pocono Mountain area, most of us celebrate fall with a team, we enjoy being a FAN.  Be it Pitt, PSU, Steelers, and/ or the Eagles. Yes, we are a divided state from East to West when it comes to our fan base.  

What does it mean to be a Fan? According to Google: an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) is usually a spectator. 2: an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit) of science-fiction fans.

Yes, we are usually a fan of some team, but a fan is an ardent admirer.  We need doers in PRPS.  We need partners, workers, and volunteers, we need you!  We need a few committed members that have the enthusiasm of a fan but a little more commitment than an admirer.

I am reaching out as the current President to encourage you to become engaged in the upcoming Fall Membership Meeting at State College on November 16th, and to start to plan for the March Annual Conference in Hershey from March 19-22nd. These opportunities for continuing education, as well as to assist the society meet the needs of its members are provided with the help of volunteers, board members, branch members, and committees. I would like to thank everyone who has served this organization since its existence, as if it weren’t for you and your efforts we would not have served others within PRPS.  

Enjoy my favorite time of the year, embrace the gorgeous scenery, and become a fan, but more importantly mark the dates to spend some time with your PRPS peeps!

My Favorite Team – I am their biggest FAN – 2022 Mechanicsburg Area Field Hockey Team
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