Celebrate Earth Day by Being Kind to Your Parks

Every year, Earth Day serves as a powerful reminder of our collective responsibility to cherish and protect the nature around us. It’s a time to reflect on our impact on the environment and to take action towards a more sustainable future for everyone. One crucial aspect of this stewardship is the preservation and appreciation of our parks and natural landscapes. These green spaces not only provide sanctuary for diverse ecosystems but also offer countless benefits to our well-being. As we commemorate Earth Day Month, let’s explore some ways to be kinder to our parks while bringing ourselves joy.

1. Practice Leave No Trace: One of the fundamental principles of outdoor ethics is to leave no trace. Whether you’re hiking, picnicking, exercising, or taking your children to the playground, make it a point to leave the park just as you found it, or even better! Dispose of your garbage and recycling properly, stay on trails, use the port-a-johns, don’t pick flowers or take anything home with you, and never carve into a tree. By minimizing our footprint, we can preserve the natural beauty of these areas for years to come while feeling great about the small choices that lead to big impacts on the green spaces around us.

When out and about in parks, try picking up just one piece of trash and disposing of it in the proper receptacle. While this may feel like a small gesture, just imagine the impact it would have if every park visitor picked up one piece of garbage. That would be 23 million less pieces of trash!

2. Stay On Trails: Trails are carefully planned to minimize environmental impact while providing access to hard to reach areas of the parks. Straying off designated paths can trample delicate vegetation, erode soil and disturb wildlife habitats. By staying on established trails, you can enjoy the outdoors responsibly and help preserve the integrity of the parks. Your county parks have over 200 miles of trails to explore and those trails take you to the best features in the parks like the waterfalls at Settlers Cabin and Harrison Hills Parks or the hidden Paul Riis structures in South Park. Here are 18 of our favorite park hikes to try!

3. Keep Your Dogs On Leash: For many of us, our furry companions are cherished members of the family and exploring the parks with them is a joyous experience. However, responsible pet ownership extends to respecting and preserving the environments we share with other people, animals and ecosystems. A leash provides a physical barrier that prevents your dog from digging in the parks, disturbing ecosystems or chasing wildlife. In sensitive ecosystems, such disturbances can lead to declines in species populations and ecosystem imbalances.

When you take your dog to the park everyone gets to have fun when you only let them off-leash in designated dog parks. There are dog parks in 7 of the 9 county parks including Boyce, Harrison Hills, Hartwood Acres, North, Settlers Cabin, Round Hill, South and White Oak. Perhaps you can try all 7 of these spaces with your furry friend!

Ducks eating grass

4. Prioritize Observation: Parks are natural areas and sanctuaries for wildlife, providing habitats for a diverse array of species to thrive in their natural environments. Despite our best intentions, some actions meant to express care and kindness can actually have detrimental effects on the very creatures we seek to help. One example of this behavior is feeding wild animals. Feeding animals can alter their diets and can create a dependence on human-provided food sources. This in turn, can lead to behavioral changes that affects the animal’s natural ability to survive in the wild.

If your goal is to see wildlife up close, then remember to remain quiet while you are in pursuit. Many animals are sensitive to smell so consider what sprays you use before you leave home and try to remain downwind of where you think the animals you wish to see will be. We recommend finding a nice spot to sit down for an extended period of time and focusing on the sights and sounds around you.

5. Volunteer: There are lots of ways to volunteer throughout your nine county parks. Between litter clean-ups, trail maintenance work, invasive species removals and tree plantings, there is a way for everyone to give back. Participating in these activities not only benefits the parks but also fosters a sense of connection and stewardship among participants. Volunteering can be a great way to spend time with loved ones or help you make new friends. It is also a fun and valuable tool for teaching your children more about the plants and animals that they see outside.

At our upcoming Park ’til Dark event on Saturday, May 18 we are hosting a tree planting in South Park with the Allegheny County Park Rangers. By volunteering with us and planting trees, you get to make a positive impact by reducing erosion, improving air quality, supporting biodiversity, reducing surface water runoff and improving flood prevention.

6. Donate: Supporting our work throughout your county parks is a huge way to make a difference for Earth Day because of the growing impact of our work. Thanks to generous donors and North Park users, Karen and Shawn Hanlon, all donations made in honor of Earth Day will be matched, doubling your support and doubling your impact! A gift of $25 becomes $50, or $500 becomes $1,000! Whatever amount you can give will be matched to help improve, conserve and restore your favorite county parks so consider making a donation today. 

Earth Day serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of all life on our planet and our shared responsibility to safeguard it. As we celebrate this annual event, let’s commit to finding one new way that we can be kinder to our parks. Through mindful actions, volunteering and making donations, we can ensure that these precious landscapes thrive for generations to come. Together, let’s strive to leave a legacy of conservation and stewardship that we can all be proud of, all while having fun outside in the parks.

Happy Earth Day Month!