Safely Celebrate Earth Day with Parks and Recreation — Episode 064

By Cort Jones and Roxanne Sutton | Posted on April 21, 2020

Safely Celebrate Earth Day 410

Earth Day is a time when people all over the world promote the importance of environmental awareness, and it serves as a reminder that anyone can take small steps to protect the environment. This year, on April 22, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Earth Day has been a critical event since its inception in 1970 – in fact, in response to the very first Earth Day, landmark environmental laws like The Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act were created, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And while this is an extremely important day, due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many of the planned celebrations have had to go virtual.

On today’s episode, we’re joined by three dedicated and creative staff members of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department in Ohio to talk about the virtual Earth Day celebrations they have planned so their community can learn more about the environment around them and how to protect it. Joining us on the show from Columbus Recreation and Parks Department are:

  • Betty Blockinger, Volunteer Manager
  • Colleen Sharkey, Program Coordinator
  • Rosalie Hendon, Environmental Planner

We talk about what Earth Day means to each of them, as well as why it’s so important to celebrate. And, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, their department is hosting a 10-day virtual Earth Day celebration to help the people who live in Columbus explore all the things that live and grow around their homes and in the community’s parks through a fun, scavenger hunt-style activity — while being mindful of physical distancing guidelines and state and local ordinances.

Various things to search for will be posted on their department’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts from April 15-25, and community members can win prizes from local businesses by posting photos of the things they find, tagging the department and using #VirtualEarthDayCbus. People are encouraged to use iNaturalist, a mobile app that can be used to observe and identify various species — everything from the rarest of butterflies to a common weed. For folks who may not have a smartphone, or would rather record their findings using pen and paper, check out the seek-and-find graphic in the photo gallery below!

The observations made through iNaturalist also support the conservation community at large. All the observations are verified by a community of experts and go through a process of verification and ultimately end up as data for researchers and environmentalists from around the globe to use. Here’s a video of Colleen showing how easy it is to use! 

The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department is also engaging their community during this time through:

  • Sharing gardening tips and other activities on their outdoor recreation program’s Instagram account
  • Get Active At Home: With fitness facilities closed, the department’s health and wellness team is posting workouts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to encourage residents to get off the couch and get moving at home. From low-intensity workouts to adaptive yoga to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), there are a variety of workouts for all ages and fitness levels.
  • CAC Create at Home: While art classes at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center (CAC) are currently canceled, local artists are giving step-by-step instructions on creative arts projects via Facebook Live every Tuesday and Thursday at noon on the CAC Facebook page.

Thanks to Columbus Recreation and Parks Department and the important work of Betty, Colleen and Rosalie, the people who live in Columbus, Ohio, will be able to safely celebrate Earth Day — and regardless of where you live, hopefully this episode will give you ideas on how you can safely celebrate, as well!

For more information about NRPA’s response to COVID-19, as well as available resources for park and recreation professionals, please see our Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) webpage.

Listen to the episode for the full story.


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Columbus Recreation and Parks Department Virtual Earth Day