Notable News

September 1, 2014, Department, by Marissa Bracamonte

Mark your calendars — September 27th is National Public Lands Day! “Helping Hands for Public Lands” is their slogan, and this year NPLD is celebrating its 21st anniversary with help from partners and supporters like NRPA, the National Environmental Education Foundation and Toyota. It is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for America’s public lands and a great way to introduce individuals and families to the state parks. 12 states have already signed a Memorandum of Mutual Support with NPLD to encourage their parks’ participation. NPLD can be an annual catalyst to start year-round volunteer participation for the care of public lands, and projects can be structured to benefit the land or a historic site, educate volunteers and encourage the community to be active.

On Friday, September 26, Custer State Park in South Dakota will be celebrating the 49th anniversary of the annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup. Cowboys, cowgirls and park crew members will be rounding up more than 1,300 American buffalo, one of the largest publicly held bison herds in the world, in a practice that keeps the population in check along with available land area and resources. The buffalo are corralled, sorted, branded, tested and treated, all of which can be safely viewed by the more than 14,000 visitors who arrive each year. The event is open to the public and includes features such as cook-offs, historical recreations and an art festival.

Penn Park in Whittier, California, reportedly suffered almost $7,000 worth of damage in mid-July when San Francisco-based entrepreneur Jason Buzi’s Twitter account promoting his giveaway phenomenon Hidden Cash announced that the park was the location of the latest money-hunting venture. The handle, @HiddenCash, indicated the park grounds held hidden PEZ dispensers filled with $40 to $50 and lunch boxes filled with $100. Hundreds of people came to hunt for the cash stashes and caused thousands of dollars in damage in the process, as well as costing the city money for police overtime. Assistant City Manager Nancy Mendez said, “It was a nice idea, but 1,000 people is way too many for that poor old park.” Some city residents such as Vanessa Garcia, who found a PEZ dispenser containing $40, said of the event, “It’s a lot of fun,” and joined many participants in support of what happened at Penn Park. Other residents like Anthony Nerlino, who watched people climb through bushes and asked “How much is it going to cost to fix that?” didn’t think the fun was worth it. The City of Whittier is now considering asking Buzi to reimburse the city for damages.             

In 2016, the state of Indiana will celebrate its 200th anniversary, and its Bicentennial Commission has confirmed that the Griffin Bike Park in Vigo County will be endorsed as a Bicentennial Legacy Project. Griffin Bike Park was created to honor the core values of “family, friendship, community and freedom,” and the memories of military service men and women who gave their lives to protect those values. The park is named after Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, U.S. Army, who was killed in 2009 when he was deployed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Hilride Progression Development Group has been contracted to complete the planning and design of the park by January 2015, and construction is slated to begin in March 2015. If all goes according to plan, the park should be completed and ready for its grand opening at the same time as the Indiana Bicentennial celebrations in 2016. The park, which is designed to engage youth, young adults, families and all other members of the community, will be culturally inclusive and accessible for individuals of all backgrounds, ages and abilities. It gives an opportunity for everyone to explore trails, ecosystems and the unique landscape that the area has to offer with a wide range of technical trail and terrain features. Griffin Bike Park will give the communities of Terra Haute and Vigo County a new recreational resource full of challenging and rewarding experiences that promote a healthy, active lifestyle as well as an economic benefit to the area. A Friends of Griffin Bike Park support group has been formed to help build the park that will hopefully inspire local Indiana residents and be part of the celebration when the Bicentennial events begin.

Most people probably imagine a life of retirement, relaxation and “slowing down” when they reach their 72nd birthday, but that’s not the case for Kingsport, Tennessee, resident Helen Wilmoth, who recently biked 72 miles in less than 24 hours to celebrate her birthday. Wilmoth had planned to complete a bike ride of 70 miles two years ago on her 70th birthday, but she was recovering from a major back surgery at the time and such a long ride was not possible. However, this past July, Wilmoth and her regular cycling group, called the Biker Babe Believers (a nod to all eight of the bikers being women and Christian), embarked on a celebratory ride, logging one mile for every year of Wilmoth’s life thus far. The Babes biked Kingsport’s Greenbelt during their tribute, a linear public park and historic fitness trail that connects businesses, smaller parks, residential centers, schools and activity centers. The trail passes streams, marshlands, open meadows and historical sites such as the Exchange Place and Houlson River. To show how excited she was to celebrate, Wilmoth wore a party hat on top of her helmet for the entire bike ride. Wilmoth says the ability to complete such a long ride at her age is thanks to regular exercise including bike riding several days a week along with Silver Sneakers and spin classes at her local YMCA.

Excited for the coming winter and the start of snow sports but don’t want to wait for the season to arrive? Folks at Liberty University’s Liberty Mountain are catering to such desires by making use of engineer Brian Thomas’ intriguing invention dubbed Snowflex. Snowflex is a synthetic material designed to simulate the surface of snow with the bonus of added safety, thanks to a lack of holes and sharp edges in the surface layers and more cushioning for falls. Snowflex can accurately mimic the speed and edge control of snow and it sports a misting system that keeps the slopes moist and maintains their shape year-round.

New Forest National Park in southern England has a new tactic to help visitors disconnect from their devices and enjoy the world around them without any technological barriers. It’s called Tech Creche, and it’s located at the nearby Brockenhurst rail station. Tech Creche allows park visitors to leave cell phones, iPads, computers and even car keys with the New Forest Travel Concierge. Visitors can then take an open-top bus ride to and back from the park unimpeded by the urge to text, Google or tweet about the things they might see. Promise vouchers, indicating a commitment to take advantage of Tech Creche and enjoy screen-free family time, can be downloaded by all users and are later included in a drawing for fun prizes like spa trips.