**Co-Authored by Daniel White, Sr. Conservation Writer, The Nature Conservancy in Virginia**
The sheer diversity of local, state and federal lands protected for the benefit and enjoyment of Virginians and visitors is cause for pride and celebration. And celebrating is exactly what’s in store this month, as the commonwealth and the whole conservation community gears up for Virginia Public Lands Week.
The commonwealth and conservation organizations are hosting a slate of special events for Virginia Public Lands Day on September 22. Guided hikes and paddle trips encourage people to get outside and explore all that Virginia’s public lands have to offer, while volunteer cleanups raise awareness of the shared responsibility to protect and care for these special places in perpetuity.
In honor of Public Lands Day, all 37 Virginia State Parks will celebrate with free parking, special programs and volunteer events. Make plans to attend one of these events, then share photos of your Virginia Public Lands Day adventures by posting on social media using the hashtags #VAPublicLands and #VAOutdoors.
Trail & Beach Cleanup at Kiptopeke State Park—Cape Charles
Kiptopeke State Park, a pristine park located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, hosts the Trail and Beach Cleanup on Virginia Public Lands Day. Join park rangers to help pick up litter and debris as you learn about the natural, cultural, and historic wonders of the Eastern Shore. Afterwards, stick around the park to try your hand at fishing or crabbing in the coastal park waters.
Douthat State Park Interpretive Hike & Trail Cleanup—Millboro
Give back while having fun when you volunteer at Douthat State Park for Virginia Public Lands Day. Join park ranger guides for an interpretive hike while picking up refuse along the trail. This 0.79 mile moderate hike will follow Tobacco House Ridge Trail from the intersection of Blue Suck Falls Trail to White Oak Campground and will offer an outstanding view of Douthat Lake.
Tend the Oyster Garden at Belle Isle State Park – Lancaster
Come out and tend the garden, the oyster garden that is. Learn all about the life of an oyster: what they eat, how they grow, and if they have friends and enemies. You will also discuss the importance to the ecosystem of the bay and river all while getting a hands-on, up close look at the oysters, as well as the critters that call the garden home. Be ready to get your hands dirty afterwards, as you help clean the floats.
Birding Adventure and Survey at High Bridge Trail State Park, Farmville
Join Margaret Watson Bird Club volunteers for a birding adventure on High Bridge Trail and help the local bird club conduct an informal bird survey of wild birds on the park property. Following the bird survey, a cleanup will be held on site.
WHY CELEBRATE VIRGINIA’S PUBLIC LANDS?
Roughly 3.7 million acres of land across Virginia—close to 15 percent of the state—is managed for public benefit. From the smallest city parks to the vast George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, our shared green spaces provide vital natural services: clean water, recreation to boost our physical and mental well-being, habitat for diverse wildlife, and economic activity and jobs.
By any measure, there’s a lot to love about Virginia’s public lands. Looking for more conservation events? Virginia State Parks are hosting an array of events across the state in honor of Virginia Public Lands Week.
Mary Etta Randolph
Is Natural Bridge State Park included?