By Joseph P BrutonOctober 8, 2019
Day in and day out, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District works to ensure that visitors to our Corps parks and lakes are able to enjoy nature at its best. That means a year-round effort by park rangers and staff to keep these lakes, rivers, recreation areas and campsites free of trash and in working order.
Once a year, however, many visitors return to our parks, and some come for the first time, to lend a helping hand in the ongoing effort to maintain public lands.
Saturday, September 22 was that day this year as people across the nation converged on beaches, parks, lakes and public recreation sites of every kind for the 25th Annual National Public Lands Day.
From Point Reyes Station, California, in the west to Chincoteague Island, Virginia, in the east, a quick look at the National Environmental Education Foundation website shows a map pinned with hundreds of locations that were hosting a NPLD cleanup event.
Pin number 329 on the NEEF map pointed people to a lake just outside of Porterville, California. More than 275 volunteers of all ages made their way here to Success Lake, pulled on some work gloves and spent the day making sure their local lake would remain as pristine as possible.
Cub Scouts, college groups, high school students and seniors worked together on an assortment of beautification projects that ranged in scope from picking up trash along the shore, to painting park benches, removing invasive species and planting drought resistant gardens.
Calvin Foster, Southern Operations Area Manager for the Sacramento District, said having such a large number of volunteers is nothing new for the area.
"Success Lake regularly has a large turnout. People in Porterville really get behind the effort and it's not uncommon for us to have anywhere from 200 to 400 people participate annually," said Foster.
Volunteers also set up a wide range of display booths, providing everything from a bounce house to a demonstration featuring 10-year-old chocolate lab "Popeye" and his owner Debi Johnson of Mussel Dogs - an organization whose rescue dogs are trained to sniff out invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels.
If you happen to think one day of nationwide volunteer work probably doesn't make that big of a difference, consider these statistics from NEEF.org. In 2017, more than 2,100 sites across the U.S. welcomed 169,000 volunteers on NPLD. On that one day, volunteers provided 680,000 hours of service. Had that been paid labor, the cost for their work would have totaled approximately $16.7 million.
Now do the math over a 25-year period of volunteer events! The number of volunteers helping out over that period would total approximately 17 million people, and the money saved for those hours worked would be approximately $417 million!
Consider that the next time you take a trip out to enjoy the beauty of your public lands - and possibly consider joining us for next year's National Public Lands Day.