In case you hadn't heard, today was National Public Lands Day  (NPLD), America's largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve the country's national parks, national forests, urban parks, and other public lands. According to the National Environmental Education Foundation  (NEEF), the principal organization behind this annual event, last year's NPLD motivated roughly 150,000 volunteers. Collectively, they removed around 900,000 pounds of trash and 20,000 pounds of invasive plants; built and maintained about 1,320 miles of trails; planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs, and other native plants; and contributed approximately $14 million to enhance public lands across the country.
Hopefully, today's event motivated just as many eager volunteers – adults and children alike, who, besides offering their assistance on a wide array of projects, were also encouraged to embrace America's natural wonders through outdoor activities like hiking and swimming. Intended, in part, to educate volunteers about the effects of climate change on America's public lands, this year's event highlighted more than 1,000 projects and programs, from fire tree and ginger removal at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park  to a beach cleanup at Michigan's Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore  to fence painting at Virginia's Appomattox Court House National Historical Park .
While I'm certainly grateful to everyone who volunteered his or her time, energy, and other resources to this year's National Public Lands Day, such an altruistic annual event isn't the only chance for residents and travelers to embrace volunteerism and celebrate the great outdoors. Whether you're interested in embarking on a volunteer vacation or helping public lands closer to home, you'll find that most of America's national and state parks will be grateful for the assistance. For more information about volunteer opportunities throughout the country, such as seasonal campground hosting, consult the National Park Service  or a specific state park system, such as the Florida Park Service . Wherever you decide to venture, from Alaska  to the Florida Keys , be sure to consult the Moon travel guide  that focuses on your intended destination – and of course, I hope you have a memorable and rewarding experience.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad  blog and my Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore  / Text © 2010 Laura Martone