Blog Post Jennifer Errick Sep 3, 2013

20 Years of “Helping Hands for Public Lands”

Celebrate National Public Lands Day this month by helping out at a park you love

NPLD Morongo

Volunteers clear brush at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve at the 2012 National Public Lands Day.

camera icon Photo © Kyler McKay

Saturday, September 28 marks the 20th annual National Public Lands Day, America’s largest volunteer day inspiring people to pitch in and help our parks and public spaces. NPCA has been a long-time supporter of this event, which brings thousands of people around the country outdoors to plant trees, pick up litter, remove invasive plants, improve trails, and just have fun getting their hands dirty for a good cause.

According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, which coordinates the event, National Public Lands Day has grown dramatically over the last two decades. The first volunteer day in 1994 drew about 700 people to three project sites. By comparison, last year, about 175,000 people volunteered on 2,206 projects spread across every state, the District of Columbia, and many U.S. territories.

In 2012 alone, volunteers:

  • Collected an estimated 23,000 pounds of invasive plants.
  • Built and maintained an estimated 1,500 miles of trails.
  • Planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs, and other native plants.
  • Removed an estimated 500 tons of trash from trails and other places.
  • Contributed labor valued at an estimated $18 million to improve public lands across the country.

Inspired to do your part? NPCA will be involved with several events:

  • Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Tentative plans include trail maintenance, roadside cleanup, and campground maintenance in the Longmire area. RSVP to Shannon Brundle at or 206.903.1457.
  • Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Join us to improve new lands just added to the park! Work may include fence repair and building renovation, as well as trail marking and maintenance. RSVP to Kevin Dahl at or 520.603.6430 for details.
  • Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: NPCA staff will be helping out at this event, sponsored by the Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Remove lotuses from the park’s ponds, clean trash, and help with other general improvement projects. RSVP to Tina O'Connell at or 202.494.0456.
  • Arches National Park, Utah,> 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Join us for Graffiti Awareness Day as we clean up some of our favorite trails and wilderness areas near Arches National Park and build awareness about the increased occurrence of vandalism on public lands! RSVP to Britte Kirsch at or 801.521.0785.
  • Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Help with litter clean up, fence painting, tree planting, and more, with guided hiking opportunities! RSVP to Katherine McKinney at or 202.454.3328.
  • Fort Hunt Park on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia, 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 29: Take part in cleanup and improvement projects, a one-mile park walk, a talk to learn more about the park’s varied history, refreshments, and music provided by the Mount Vernon Dixieland Band. RSVP to Ed Stierli at or 202.454.3339.

Find other events around the country at

About the author

  • Jennifer Errick Managing Editor of Online Communications

    Jennifer co-produces NPCA's podcast, The Secret Lives of Parks, and writes and edits a wide variety of online content. She has won multiple awards for her audio storytelling.