I Love My Park Day
I Love My Park Day
I Love My Park Day
May 3 was the third annual I Love My Park Day in New York State. According to the Parks and Trails New York website, the purpose is to celebrate, improve and enhance state parks and historic sites; boost volunteerism; and raise the visibility of the entire state parks system and its needs.
The same website also claims a legacy that is unparalleled. From Niagara Falls, the oldest state park in the country, to Jones Beach, that has more visitors annually than Yellowstone, more than 57 million people visit New York State parks every year.
The New York State Park System includes 178 state parks and 35 state historic sites, covering a total of 325,000 acres. The park system includes a valuable collection of natural and recreational assets, including 1,350 miles of hiking trails, over 8,000 campsites, numerous swimming pools, beaches, boat launches, nature centers and golf courses. This collection of resources contributes significant benefits to New York State’s economy, health, environment and history. (http://www.ptny.org/ilovemypark/whyparksmatter.shtml)
According to the website, some of the benefits of visiting a New York State Park include economic benefits, health benefits, environmental benefits, and cultural and historic benefits.
I will leave the economic benefits to the experts, but the health, environmental, cultural and historic benefits are pretty impressive.
Everyone remembers their mothers telling them to go outside and play. Well, in the parks you can! Statistics indicate that more than 60 percent of New York adults and 32 percent of children are overweight and obese. New York parks offer access to low-cost or free close-to home recreational activities, including walking, hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking, all within the beautiful scenery of the parks.
According to the website, state parks and historic sites are also hosts to scenic viewsheds, geologic features, and both common and rare flora and fauna. Over 100 species of native mammals, tens of thousands of species of insects, hundreds of fish species, 70 species of amphibians, and more than 300 species of birds find a home in New York parks.
Finally, the historic sites are rich in cultural heritage. Visitors can experience the many facets of New York State history through tours, storytelling, exhibits, cooking demonstrations, military drills, and encampments. According to the website, there are countless ways to explore our past. State historic sites protect our shared heritage for current and future generations, from Revolutionary War battles to the Underground Railroad to women’s rights.
New York state parks do indeed have very lofty intensions and ambitions, but the reality can sometimes fall a little bit short. With all these treasures the parks have to offer, and most of the time either free or at a very reasonable price, you would think people would be clamoring to do what they can for their parks, but a lot of time that is not the case.
As you know, I am a firm believer in taking action to do something when something wrong needs righted. In this case, the Saratoga Springs State Park. A previous blog I wrote talked about the efforts my brother and I did on Earth Day to try to clean up in that park. No one else that we could see did anything else in the park that day, although many people walked by, ignoring the piles of trash everywhere.
Although the park had no formal activities for Earth Day, they did participate in the I Love My Park Day, so my brother and I were thrilled to hear that and signed up right away, this time accompanied by my older son John and my three-year-old granddaughter Lily. Hey, we figured, yet another opportunity to do my part to make the park a better, more attractive place to visit.
When we got to the sign up area, I was disappointed to see only around fifty people there. Saratoga County has more than 200,000 residents. You would think more people would care about their environment and want to do something about their parks.
Also missing were corporate sponsored teams. My son works for Home Depot, and he was the only employee from the Saratoga store who signed up to participate in the activities.
That being said, the organizers were well organized and had many projects planned, including planting flowerbeds, repairing trails and trash pickup, which seems to be a never-ending thing, partly because there is a concert amphitheater, SPAC, located within the park, as well as a trash carry-out policy, which people don’t seem to want to follow.
The day was quite breezy and chilly, which might have discouraged some people, but not my granddaughter! She takes after me and my son in wanting to help the environment, even at her young age and she wanted to pick up trash.
The trash bags were bigger than her, but off we went and we had a grand old time. Lily soon tired of carrying a trash and picking up trash because she wanted to be my helper, and was more interested in stomping in the mud while I dug up old beer bottles. We were both soon covered in mud because she thought it was funny to splash mud on her, but I couldn’t help but think I was teaching a new generation to treasure the environment and do whatever you can to protect it.
All in all we picked up four bags of trash, my son and brother being much more productive, but we felt that we had made a small difference.
I’m not sure what it will take to get more people involved. Everyone has seen the pictures and videos of animals being trapped by plastic beer can rings or being covered in oil from oil spills, but I think it needs to go further than that, with education starting as early as possible in the classroom. The Wilton Wildlife Preserve offers several of those programs, and they are adapted to the environment in this area.
Well, here’s hoping for more participants next year and more protection of our environment!