On a crisp autumn day, volunteers gathered at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District sites to honor National Public Lands Day (NPLD).
Spearheading this collaborative endeavor for our public lands, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District was pivotal fostering connections among community members and organizations.
"National Public Lands Day allows the public to experience firsthand the vitality of our public lands," articulated Ryan Smith, a park ranger for Loyalhanna Lake, one of the sites hosting public cleanup events.
For Smith, engaging the community, particularly the youth, is essential. "The land is preserved because preceding generations have nurtured it. Our paramount mission is to sustain the land for future generations to relish," conveyed Smith, who spent the day taking volunteers out to cleanup locations by boat, handing out trash bags, and showing appreciation to all who helped by getting them pizza.
Joel VanOrd, natural resources specialist at Tionesta Lake, emphasized the importance of community engagement and partnership. "This provides an experience for us as an agency to engage the community and collaborate," VanOrd remarked. "It is a mutual benefit that fosters care of their public land in the local community. The motivation is based on results, and seeing results from not only the agency’s contribution but the public brings a sense of pride that is long-lasting," he said, highlighting the alignment of events around the district.
Residents and regular visitors to Pittsburgh District NPLD sites voiced their thoughts and experiences. "I think the Army Corps has been doing an excellent job of maintaining everything," said Dan Grasing, praising the continual improvements in maintenance. "Keeping it clean is essential. You might pull up along the shore somewhere, and you don't want to be stepping on glass or anything," Matt Kerlin added, stressing the importance of cleanliness around the lakes and expressing his lifelong connection to the area.
National Public Lands Day is more than an event; it manifest an intergenerational commitment to conservation and unity. It underscores the importance of preserving natural sanctuaries for future visitors.
"I view it as my lake, too. We all own a little piece of this. I want to do my part to keep it clean and make it enjoyable for everybody else that comes out here," conveyed Ken Bush, expressing the shared sense of ownership and responsibility among community members.
Darlene Kinter, a Bush Recreation Area camp host, reflected on the personal meaning attached to Loyalhanna Lake and the Bush Recreation Area. "I find solace at the lake,” Kinter said. “It’s a great part of life being here ... it’s very peaceful.”
The partnership between the local community, our associates, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District represents a mutual pledge to preserve and utilize public lands. The collaboration characterizes the enduring commitment to responsible natural resource management, alignment of various interests and responsibilities, and enhancement of community welfare and environmental conservation.
The partnership provides a glimpse into a future where reverence and protection for public lands are a shared value among a spectrum of stakeholders, crafting a legacy of conservation and unity for generations to come.