Farmer Fred (top photo) guides children in the planting of spring flowers in egg cartons at last year’s Earth Day celebration in Bradford County. Above, youths line up to build bird houses that they can take home.
By Rick Hiduk
(Also published in Living Bradford County magazine)
Since the Bradford County Conservation District (BCCD) started its community celebration of Earth Day in 2017, the event has grown in both scope and attendance. Family members of all ages can engage in educational exhibits, enjoy lunch from a variety of vendors, and learn how numerous businesses and other organizations work to preserve the county’s environmental resources.
This year, the event will be held on Saturday, April 25 at the Stoll Natural Resources Center, 200 Lake Road, Towanda (Wysox) from 10 am to 2 pm. Admission and all activities are free. The grounds around the Stoll Center feature a collection of garden plots and project areas that are springing back to life after winter’s slumber.
The goal of organizers is to “lead, educate and empower people to manage resources wisely to achieve a vibrant and healthy environment supported by an educated, connected, and involved community.” Through outreach events like Earth Day, the BCCD achieves these objectives via interactive displays and demonstrations. Popular activities on April 25 will include building a birdhouse to take home, toasting marshmallows, rock painting, and more unusual tasks like figuring out the diet of an owl by dissecting their regurgitated pellets, which are kind of like a hairball from a cat.
“I particularly enjoyed watching the children enjoying the many offerings for them,” said Rep. Tina Pickett, who is a regular visitor to BCCD’s Earth Day. “They love building their own birdhouses and receiving a plant that they can take home with instructions on how to plant it.” The plants include tree seedlings left over from the BCCD’s annual sale, the order deadline for which is March 27.
“I am thrilled to see the number of youths and families participating in the various activities and presentations,” Bradford County commissioner Ed Bustin, another regular guest, remarked. “Attendance overall has been most impressive. Even last year, when the weather was less than ideal, the community response was great.”
Fellow commissioner Daryl Miller sits on the BCCD board and has watched enthusiasm for the Earth Day celebration grow. “It’s a great opportunity for people in the community to see some of the things being done to benefit us as a county in protecting our resources,” he stated. “It’s a good way to experience nature and learn how to best preserve and improve the environment we all live in. I always learn new stuff.”
Participants bringing wildlife to Earth Day should include Cornell University educators with their Raptor Program, CDE Exotics of Wilkes-Barre, Reptiland from Williamsport, and representatives from the Second Chance Wildlife Center. Folk singer and story teller Van Wagner was confirmed as an entertainer at press time.
“I learned a great deal about the habits of owls and hawks,” Bustin said of a previous Earth Day experience. “I have always been a big fan of raptors, and these face-to-face exhibits are well worth the visit.”
One of the more complex exhibits are two flood plain models that BCCD educator Dan Rhodes takes to schools and to the Troy Fair to demonstrate how storm runoff is impacted by changing the amount of paved areas, levees, wetlands and retention ponds.
In each self-contained unit, Rhodes sets up miniature homes and vehicles along a channel that can be modified with curves and simulated flood protection measures before placing other medium representing varying soil structure and obstacles. When he turns on the pump to demonstrate rainfall, the manner in which the village is inundated reflects the interaction of storm water with natural and man-made elements.
“It can show the effects of channel dredging, the installation of rip rap to prevent erosion on the sides of the channel, or the impact of straightening a stream channel,” Rhodes explained. It really dramatically shows in very short periods of time how those can destabilize a system if it’s not done to certain engineering specs.”
In and around the educational components of the Earth Day celebration are food vendors and musicians, as well as representatives from like-minded organizations like Endless Mountains Heritage Region (EMHR), at whose table guests are invited to hone their skills at rock painting last year. The EMHR will be back this year to similarly engage guests.
“My grandchildren loved the hands-on activities,” noted BCCD accounts supervisor Janet MacWhinnie. “I think the adults enjoy the same things the kids do.”
Rep. Pickett agrees. “Perhaps what I enjoy most about this Earth Day celebration is because it brings out the kid in all of us and gives us a newly-found appreciation of the Earth and the outdoors around us,” she stated.
“The Earth Day celebration is a great way to learn about the many ways our local Conservation District helps in educating the public, protecting lands and animals, promoting agriculture in our county and making access to the outdoors fun,” Bustin offered. “Working in harmony with our surroundings is the key message, and it’s a message that all generations need to learn or be reminded of often.”
“Earth Day is such a varied event as far as the different messages you can get out of it,” said Rhodes, “and for celebrating the outdoors in general.”
Interested readers may follow BCCD’s “Earth Day” Facebook page for updates on this year’s vendors, exhibitors and performers.