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Annual celebration encourages volunteer participation in national parks

Kennealy Jenkins

Outdoor enthusiasts and casual enjoyers alike are encouraged to get out to their local national forests and public lands this month in celebration of a national holiday.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of National Public Lands Day (NPLD), the “nation’s largest single-day volunteer event for public lands,” according to the National Environmental Education Foundation.

Isabelle Kennedy is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and Service Program Coordinator with the Daniel Boone National Forest. She said NPLD is always the fourth Saturday of September, and this year, it falls on September 23.

“Essentially, it’s a fee-free day, and a day meant for visitors to give back to public lands,” Kennedy said. “It’s usually encouraged in terms of volunteering, because our public lands give so much to our local communities financially, physically and emotionally, and we want to pay that forward.”

In the spirit of paying it forward, the Daniel Boone National Forest has partnered with FIND Outdoors to create a Public Lands Party at the Gladie Visitor Center in Frenchburg. Kennedy said the event is really about giving back.

“What we’re going to try and encourage is for people to go out and help us clean up these areas within the Gorge,” she said. “A lot of people recreate there, but some people don’t recreate responsibly, and we want to make sure that we’re keeping the trash cleaned up.”

To participate in the event, visitors can pick up a trash bag beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, fill it with trash they collect in the Red River Gorge, and bring it back to Gladie by 5 p.m. the next day to receive a small prize.

Kennedy said if members of the public can’t make it to a NPLD event, there are plenty of other volunteer opportunities to be found in their local national parks and public lands, and many of those opportunities are available year-round.

“They can go to our website, fs.usda.gov/dbnf, and go to the ‘Working With Us’ tab, and underneath that, there’s a page about volunteering,” Kennedy said. “They can find more information about opportunities where they can get involved with their public lands every day, and not just on National Public Lands Day.”

More information about National Public Lands Day can be found online at nps.gov.