Even before Woodie Guthrie sang “This land is your land…,” a slogan thoroughly ingrained in every American’s mind, Americans had a solid history of maintaining and sharing public lands. September 24, 2011, brings this value into sharp focus: The annual National Public Lands Day is the largest assembly of volunteer effort on behalf of public lands in history.
There are dozens of ways to participate, ranging from weeding to planting, from removing trash to building trails, from raising money to visiting major parks for free. The first National Public Lands Day, in 1994, featured three sites and 700 volunteers. Now a fixture of the last Saturday in September, last year’s National Public Lands day attracted 170,000 volunteers to more than 2,080 sites in all 50 states.
With more than a dozen sites around the Bay Area (enter your zip code at publiclandsday.org/npld-sites for a listing of the sites closest to you), the difficult choice may not be whether to participate, but where and how to participate. In San Francisco’s Bay View neighborhood, the city’s Recreation and Parks Department aims to turn out volunteers to help at five sites on Saturday. Volunteers can stop for breakfast at Joe Lee Recreation Center before getting to work at several locations: Bayview/Casey Jones Playground; Hilltop Park; Adam Rogers Community Garden; Young Blood Coleman; and Gilman Playground. Projects include park beautification, trash pick-up, weeding, mulching and playground sand sifting.
“This is really important because Bay View is overlooked and underserved…” says Kimberly Kiefer, the parks department’s education and volunteer director. “We’re trying to encourage people to get out and move, get out and play, get out and give back… We’re kicking off as a community, owning our parks.” Learn more>
Across the Golden Gate Bridge, admission will be free at Muir Woods National Monument. Nearby at Muir Beach, volunteers will have the opportunity to protect and repair the habitat of the California red-legged Frog and coho salmon. Learn more>
To the east in Martinez, there will be two-fold programming at the John Muir National Historic Site. During the day, kids can join a junior ranger program, and volunteers of all ages will plant native species on Mount Wanda or Strenzel Meadow. Volunteers may also plant flowers in the new garden at the renovated visitor center, which now features a more spacious facility and a life-size statue of John Muir. “Little kids can go climb up on his knee,” Mary Anne Gaebe of the John Muir Association envisions lively, interactive education for participants of all ages. “I guess adults can, too.”
The new center is now open, for free, seven days a week. “What’s most exciting to me is the fact that we are open all the time,” says Tom Leatherman of the National Park Service. “People are able to come to the site and learn about John Muir.”
On Saturday at 5:30 p.m., the John Muir Association will host “An Evening With John Muir,” a dinner fundraiser and presentation at the Shell Clubhouse in Martinez. The event will feature a screening of John Muir in the New World, a documentary filmed in part at the John Muir historical site. Money raised at the event will help fund continuing improvements and programming at the John Muir National Historic Site. For information about volunteer opportunities, or the dinner and film, visit nps.gov/jomu or johnmuirassociation.org.