SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Nearly 1,200 volunteers joined park rangers and staff at eight U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District parks in central California to celebrate the 17th annual National Public Lands Day Sept. 25 with cleanup efforts and dozens of park improvement projects.

Together, they planted trees, completed erosion control and bank stabilization work, built trails, removed litter and invasive species, improved wildlife habitats and rehabilitated playgrounds.

"Our volunteers are an enormous help to us on National Public Lands Day," said Jonathan Friedman, Sacramento District senior district park ranger. "Together, we're able to accomplish weeks' worth of improvement and beautification work in a single day, making our parks even better places to visit, and reconnecting us all with our shared natural heritage."

The Corps has been involved with National Public Lands Day since its inception in 1994 and has consistently been one of the largest providers of sites and volunteers participating in the event. This year's celebration also supported President Barack Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, an effort to promote the conservation of outdoor spaces and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.

"An event like this, what it means for us, is that people actually care about their parks that they are recreating in," said Jason Faridi, senior park ranger at Stanislaus River Parks. "They care about the resources out there. They take some ownership in it. So they want to come out and help in an event like this. Rather than just using it up, they want to contribute to it."

Volunteers came to support the parks and celebrate the day, but they did not leave empty handed. Each volunteer received a free day-use admission pass valid anytime in the next year at any park managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Bureau of Land Management.

National Public Lands Day also served to teach the value of civic engagement to young stewards of public lands, said some volunteers.

"Without public lands, our scouts would have no place to go learn about the outdoors," said Don Dauro, father of a scout volunteering at Hensley Lake with Boy Scouts of America Troop 314. "Here they're learning the value of community service, and taking care of a place that belongs to them."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16