Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a time when people all over the world celebrate our environment and promote the importance of preserving our natural resources and wildlife habitat. Since 1970, the world has celebrated Earth Day on April 22, but this year, because of physical distancing guidelines and many people self-isolating at home due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, park and recreation agencies all over the country have developed creative ways to celebrate virtually and safely.
Here are six ways park and recreation agencies are celebrating 50 years of Earth Day:
Miami County Park District in Ohio is hosting a virtual Earth Day campout and encouraging community members to have their own campout at home and share photos on social media. They provide tips on how to set up a tent, alternatives if you don’t have a tent or enough outdoor space, as well as how to build a campfire! We can almost smell the s’mores already.
Tips from professional horticulturalistsIf you’re thinking about starting your own personal Earth Day garden, Baltimore City Recreation & Parks in Maryland has a lot of great tips from their own horticulturalist. For example, early vegetables can be planted now, including onions, scallions, Swiss chard, peas, broccoli, carrots and potatoes. Plant lettuce every two weeks for a continuous supply through the early summer and substitute the snack for a healthy salad from your very own garden!
Host a safe BioBlitz/Live stream from a nature center
To help their community learn about the many things that live and grow in their own yards and local parks, the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department in Ohio is encouraging people to participate in a BioBlitz/scavenger hunt-style activity by safely exploring nature close to their homes using the iNaturalist mobile app — complete with prizes from local businesses. If the people in your community can’t get out in nature to celebrate Earth Day, bring it to them! The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department will also be live streaming videos from their nature center, as well as streaming art classes from their creative arts center. Learn more about Columbus Recreation and Parks Department's Earth Day celebrations in our recent episode of Open Space Radio.
Seedling and tree giveaways
Talk about curbside service! Plainfield Park District in Illinois is giving free trees to people in their community on Earth Day so they can plant them in a couple of days on Arbor Day, April 24. To maintain proper physical distancing, community members can pull right up to the front of the recreation center and get their tree!
To get their community excited about Earth Day, El Cajon Parks & Recreation Department in California is hosting a poster contest. This is a great way to learn how their community feels about the environment, their parks, and of course, Earth Day! It’s also a great way to encourage creativity and mental stimulation in a time where many people have been trying to find alternative ways to exercise their bodies and minds.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” These wise words from Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax” couldn’t be more fitting for Earth Day. That’s why the Piedmont Park Conservancy in Georgia is going live on Instagram on Earth Day to read this classic story to their friends and followers. Side note: we think this should be a regular thing.
We’ve seen countless other creative ways park and recreation professionals are ensuring the communities they serve can celebrate this important day, such as nature selfie contests, creating nature journals, Q&As with park rangers and so much more. We know this Earth Day looks a bit differently than most years, but thanks to the tireless efforts of our local park and recreation professionals, the most important message has not been lost: We must continue to provide opportunities for people to learn about and develop a love for nature so that generations to come can enjoy all of its vast beauty.
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.