Did you know that a few weeks ago on Saturday, September 26, 2015 it was National Public Lands Day? Check it out…
All across America, National Park Service staff members and plenty of volunteers got together to help carry out the modern-day mission of the National Park Service. Together, they worked to preserve and protect our nation’s special lands, and folks were especially active on the Natchez Trace Parkway!
This year, National Public Lands Day volunteers participated in several vital activities including seed collection, litter pick up along trailheads and streams, and repairs to trails along the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. Parkway staff and volunteers removed over 20 bags of the invasive non-native Japanese stiltgrass. Also, under the direction of resource managers, volunteers cleaned and reconstructed 1.1 miles of trails and handpicked thousands of flower seeds including those from Eastern Gamagrass, Bundleflower, Black-eyed Susan, Prairie Coneflower, Prairie Dock, and Prairie Clover. All of these seeds will be put to good use in prairie restoration activities along the Parkway next year.
But don’t worry, it wasn’t all work and no play! Visitors were also able to touch almost 500 years of history at special events. At the Parkway Visitor Center, people came out to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month with re-enactors from Mississippi Valley Educational Programs. Everyone had a good time, engaging in mock sword fights and showing off several other survival skills that would have been used by Hernando de Soto and his soldiers in 1541.
Hundreds of years later, these skills came in handy when they camped near the present day Natchez Trace Parkway near Tupelo, MS. Visitors met up with the Tombigbee Pioneer Group and participants learned to make baskets, corn husk dolls, and leather pouches. The 2015 National Public Lands Day celebration was definitely a success!
National Public Lands Day (NPLD) began in 1994 with three federal agencies and only 700 volunteers nationwide. Last year, 175,000 volunteers worked in more than 2,100 locations and in every state. Seven federal agencies and many state and local lands also participated in this annual day of caring for shared lands.
NPLD is a great opportunity for visitors to show their appreciation for these public lands by volunteering their time to protect and preserve the enjoyment of America’s parks through hands-on service.
Natchez Trace Parkway staff members are dedicated to engaging volunteers and visitors in “hands on the lands” activities that help protect, enhance, and promote outdoor recreation and education that occurs on public lands every day. Maybe next year, you’ll consider joining the “Helping Hands for America’s Lands” fun on September 24, 2016.
In the meantime, be sure to get outdoors and appreciate the awesome work all of the people who’ve helped make this 444-mile scenic byway one of America’s favorite national parks!