Let me be the first to wish you Happy National Public Lands Day!
Created in 1994, National Public Lands Day is the fourth Saturday in September every year. It’s “the largest single-day volunteer effort for America’s public lands,” according to the National Environmental Education Foundation. It’s also a day when many parks offer special free events such as guided hikes.
Volunteers are invited to help with projects at the local, state and federal level. According to the National Park Service, the day “celebrates the connection between people and green space in their community, inspires environmental stewardship and encourages use of open space for education, recreation and health benefits.”
What does that mean to us in East Tennessee? Well, there are several state parks that could use your energy on Saturday.
Cove Lake State Park is working on improving the horseshoe pits in the picnic area from 9 to 11 a.m. Bonus: The 13th annual Louie Bluie Music & Arts Festival takes place 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at Cove Lake, so you can treat yourself to a fun festival after volunteering!
Frozen Head State Park is starting at 9 a.m. on a project to build a backcountry springbox to provide water for backpackers at the Squire Knob campsite. The park has several more projects lined up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Norris Dam State Park will be doing some work on the Lakeside Loop trail from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They’re trying to prevent further erosion on the trail.
Panther Creek State Park is trimming bushes and branches to make trails more user friendly. The event is 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Seven Islands State Birding Park has a bunch of activities – pulling invasive species, maintaining trails, picking up trash and more – from 9 a.m. to noon. At 1 p.m., kids of all ages are welcome to assist in tagging monarch butterflies to help scientists understand monarch migration.
Two parks are hosting hikes to celebrate National Public Lands Day, both starting at 10 a.m. Fort Loudoun State Historic Park will hike the Ridgetop Trail, and Big Ridge State Park is offering a three-mile hike along the Lake Trail.
Our friends in the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club will also be hard at work on Saturday, helping TVA tune up the Loyston Point Trails from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Lunch will be provided.
Of course, taking care of our parks and other natural areas is an ongoing effort. You can also volunteer with Keep Knoxville Beautiful to clean up along Fort Loudoun Lake shorelines on Sunday, Sept. 29. Living Lands & Waters is bringing five boats to assist with the project.
If you would like to relax and have fun watching others work, you couldn’t do better than the Run With the Goats at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, at the South Knoxville location of STAR – Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding. Participants run a mile to collect goat treats, then try to get goats (provided) to tackle an obstacle course to win prizes. Racers must be age 10 and up, but there will also be a non-running, obstacle-course-only heat for 5- to 9-year-olds. Spectators can watch the hilarity and also enjoy a cuddle corral full of miniature horses. The event is a fundraiser for STAR and the South Knoxville Alliance.
In case you haven’t figured it out from store displays, Halloween is on the way. Big Ridge State Park will have Ghost House Hikes on Friday, Oct. 4. Participants will hear true stories of hauntings at the park. True stories? Hmm.
Check out the Outdoor Knoxville calendar to find links to register for these and other events.
Carol Evans is executive director of Legacy Parks Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to ensuring that our community enjoys exceptional recreational opportunities, natural beauty and open spaces, and that those assets exist for generations to come.