Hoosiers can celebrate the arrival of fall this weekend with free admission to state parks, where there will be opportunities Saturday to show their appreciation of the outdoors by picking up litter, pulling weeds and other volunteer work.
All that and more — including a no-license fishing across that state and, at Pokagon State Park, a seaplane "splash-in" — is planned by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to mark the 30th anniversary of National Public Lands Day. The activities are part of nationwide program put together by the National Environmental Education Foundation and billed as the largest single day of volunteering for parks and public lands.
The annual celebration "has proven invaluable in our mission to make the environment more accessible, relatable, relevant, and connected to people's daily lives," Sara Espinoza, president and CEO of NEEF, said in a statement.
Espinoza said the foundation "is excited to build on this legacy, expanding connections and nurturing a culture of care for our public lands."
Indiana is extending its offerings by waiving entrance fees at state parks and recreation areas Sunday. The state has celebrated National Public Lands Day for at least 10 years, said Jody Heaston with DNR.
“It’s a great way for people to realize how important our public lands are,” she said. “It’s one way people can come and give back to public lands they enjoy.”
But Hoosiers don’t have to volunteer on Saturday to enjoy free entrance to state public lands over the weekend.
“Free admission is for anybody,” Heaston said. “All state parks, some forestry and state recreation areas are also free that day. There will still be gate attendants to answer questions, but they’ll just smile and wave you in.”
Hoosiers volunteer at state public lands
There are a variety of opportunities to volunteer, from park and lake cleanups to weed wrangles where visitors are taught about invasive species and how to get rid of them.
Most of the volunteer activities run about one hour or so, but if people get into it they can keep going, Heaston said.
Among volunteer opportunities Saturday at the state parks: An invasive species round up at Chain O’Lakes State Park, a weed wrangle at Spring Mill State Park, and the Hoosier National Forest is participating with a cleanup at Patoka Lake.
A full list of volunteer opportunities can be found on DNR’s website.
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Beyond National Public Lands Day
The DNR is not only hosting volunteer programs but will have events running at various locations.
Mounds State Park will have an archaeology day where experts share artifacts and stories. Lieber SRA will have a vendor market and Prophetstown State Park is holding a fundraiser to restore and preserve its facilities.
The Indiana Seaplane Pilots Association will conduct its 2023 Seaplane Splash-In from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Pokagon State Park in Angola, with seaplanes flying and landing on the lake.
Parks have volunteer opportunities throughout year
DNR is always looking for volunteers beyond National Public Lands Day, Heaston said. Trails are the number one attraction, and there are plenty of opportunities for trail maintenance and picking up litter.
DNR also looks for electricians, carpenters and artists for volunteer work. For people looking for less strenuous volunteer work, there are papers to sort and program prep opportunities.
“People can contact a local property and say, ‘Hey, I’m an individual looking for something to do to volunteer,’” Heaston said. “Every property knows what they need to be done.”
A full listing of National Public Lands Day events can be found on DNR’s website at events.in.gov/dnr.
Karl Schneider is an IndyStar environment reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @karlstartswithk
IndyStar's environmental reporting project is made possible through the generous support of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Free admission, volunteer opportunities at state parks this weekend