Volunteers Set to Restore Public Lands from Coast to Coast

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On September 22, 2018, volunteers are expected to turn out in droves at parks, forests, beaches, rivers, and other public lands throughout the country to celebrate the 25th annual National Public Lands Day (NPLD). Organized each year by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), National Public Lands Day promotes the connection between people and the environment by inviting everyone to get outside. With support from NPLD national corporate sponsor Toyota, eight federal agency partners, hundreds of state and local partners, and dozens of nonprofit organizations, National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort.

“Whether it’s an iconic place like Yellow Stone National Park, the soccer fields down the street, or a strip of greenspace in the middle of the city, our nation’s public lands offer limitless opportunities for recreation and relaxation,” said NEEF President Meri-Margaret Deoudes. “National Public Lands Day is the perfect opportunity to spend the day outside with friends and family, caring for and enjoying these special places.”

The theme for this year’s National Public Lands Day is restoration and resilience. On National Public Lands Day, more than 200,000 volunteers are expected to turn out for trail maintenance and planting projects, trash pick-ups, and other refurbishing activities aimed at restoring public lands and making them more resilient. The day will also feature a variety of education, health, and recreation activities—all set on the backdrop of the country’s public lands and waterways.

“Natural disasters and extreme weather, human activities, and a host of other factors wreak havoc on our public lands and threaten the health and wellbeing of the people and wildlife who depend on them,” said Deoudes, noting that in 2017, weather and climate disasters caused more than $306 billion in damages—the highest annual cost in U.S. history. “If we want to continue to enjoy all the benefits these outdoor spaces have to offer, we have to help care for, restore and work to make these special places more resilient to future threats.”

NEEF is partnering with the National Park Service (NPS) and Toyota to host a signature NPLD event at Big Thicket National Preserve, which suffered extensive damages last August when Hurricane Harvey blew through the 113,000 acres of land and water spread over seven counties in Southeast Texas. Over the past year, park officials and volunteers have mounted a steady clean-up effort, but some areas still need help. NPS plans to mobilize volunteer support during NPLD 2018 to restore areas that have remaining storm damage and debris.

A sample of other restoration and resilience activities planned for NPLD 2018 includes:

  • At Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, located in the northeastern corner of Washington, D.C. at the Maryland state border, National Public Lands Day has been a mainstay event since 2001. This year, more than 200 volunteers are expected to turn out for trail maintenance, litter removal, and other restoration activities. A highlight of the event is clearing out the site’s water lily ponds and preparing them for the harsh winter weather. In a few hours, NPLD volunteers typically knock out work it would take staff months to complete.
  • Climbers in Yosemite National Park are poised to give the giant cliffs their annual facelift. Members of the Yosemite Climbing Association are planning a massive clean-up effort around National Public Lands Day to remove the wear and tear visitors and nature take on this iconic park each year. Last year, more than 1,400 Yosemite Facelift volunteers contributed a total of 9,692 hours and collected 14,762 pounds of trash.
  • Volunteers at the Plumb Beach Clean Up at Gateway National Recreation Area, just three miles east of New York’s Coney Island on Jamaica Bay, will help revitalize precious marine habitat and salt marshes. Naturalists will also be on site to educate volunteers about the creatures that live in the Bay.

More than 2,000 volunteer projects will take place throughout the nation, including 40 sites where Toyota team members volunteer.

“National Public Lands Day provides meaningful opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to give back to public lands in communities across the nation,” said Kevin Butt, Toyota Motor North America’s general manager of environmental sustainability. “Through our collective action, we can help contribute to the creation of a more sustainable future.” The company’s participation in NPLD supports the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050.

National Public Lands Day is a fee-free day for most federal sites as well as many state parks. Participating federal sites reward volunteers with a coupon good for free entry to any public land managed by one of the NPLD federal partners any time before National Public Lands Day 2019.

To learn more about National Public Lands Day or search for an event on NEEF’s interactive map, log on to NEEFUSA.org/NPLD.

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