Your State Park Day promotes volunteerism

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To celebrate National Public Lands Day, Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site and Red Top Mountain State Park will present numerous beautification efforts Saturday.

In its 10th year, Your State Park Day will promote volunteerism in venues across the state, with the offering’s presenter — Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites — covering the costs of participants’ parking or admission fees.

"For [the past] 25 years, the president of the United States declares one of the last Saturdays in September National Public Lands Day to encourage people to volunteer and enjoy national parks and monuments” said Keith Bailey, curator for the Etowah Indian Mounds. “Your State Parks Day is Georgia's version of that; declared by the governor each year to correspond with that date. It [is] a way of celebrating our public lands in the state or local areas. It is a day intended on encouraging volunteerism in our public parks. Etowah has been participating in this for several years.

"Volunteers and staff get together to do a project that is useful for the parks enjoyment. This year the date was declared to be a week earlier, but most state parks had already advertised it a year in advance. Etowah will be celebrating the date on Sept. 29. Some public parks may [have celebrated] on the 22nd, which happens to be the date declared for this year's holiday. People wanting to know about volunteering at any of the public lands can look on the internet here: https://www.neefusa.org/npld."

The Etowah Indian Mounds — 813 Indian Mounds Road S.W. in Cartersville —  features six earthen mounds, a village area, a plaza, borrow pits and defensive ditch. Regarded as the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast, the 54-acre venue is where several thousand American Indians lived from A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1550.

"This year at Etowah, we are putting together three new picnic tables and about 20 birdhouses," Bailey said about the volunteer projects Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. "Storms over the last few years have damaged many of the birdhouses on the park and that seems to have affected the sighting of certain birds.

"If there is enough time and volunteers, we will do some landscape cleanup. We hope that people's volunteer efforts will encourage them to come back and enjoy our park and other parks, with the knowledge it takes a lot of hands to make the park nice for both guests and wildlife."

Titled Cabin Cleanup at Red Top for Your State Parks Day, Red Top Mountain State Park's volunteer efforts will revolve around its Vaughan Cabin, 50 Lodge Road S.E. in Acworth. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., participants will help clean the structure's interior as well as spreading mulch and picking up debris outside.

"The 1870s log cabin was restored and relocated to Red Top Mountain State Park in collaboration with the Etowah Valley Historical Society in 1996," said Debora Tucker, president of the Friends of Red Top Mountain State Park. "The cabin is a focal point of the park and serves as a backdrop for many programs that educate and demonstrate what life was like during the 1800s.

"We hope that attendees this year gain a great sense of accomplishment and know their hard work is very much appreciated by the entire park and Friends organizations. We want each volunteer to celebrate their work and the theme of this year’s event by literally 'seeing the difference' they’ve made in making the Vaughan Cabin look its best. We’ll help promote that excitement by taking group photos at the beginning and end of our volunteer time and posting some of the photos on the Red Top Friends Facebook page at www.facebook.com/redtopmountain/, utilizing the hashtag #SeeTheDifferenceYSPD. It’s always great to hear a volunteer return to a site at the park at which they worked and say proudly, 'I helped with that.'"

Since the volunteer day's inception, Tucker shared participants have completed various beautification initiatives, such as placing plants in the butterfly garden, painting the former Discovery Room, and creating a flower bed and pathway borders at the venue's outdoor classroom.

"It’s difficult for me to remember exactly how many years I’ve volunteered for YSPD, but it’s been at least five years," Tucker said. "2018 marks the 10th Your State Parks Day, which originated as Save My State Parks Day when the state Friends organization rallied to help support the parks during massive budget cuts. These events were so successful that they’ve continued and evolved to be the annual Your State Parks Day.

"What I enjoy the most is watching entire families participate, especially seeing how hard very young children work. They are very serious about being able to contribute. Everyone gets a volunteer T-shirt and the kids are so proud to pick their favorite color and wear their special shirt. Several projects involved painting things, like picnic tables or items in the outdoor classroom. Admittedly, the children often get more paint on themselves than they do the object they’re painting, but they have so much fun and they get the job done. People of all ages seem to really enjoy planting new flowers and also spreading new mulch. This is more difficult work, but I’ve never heard one complaint, and it’s amazing how complete strangers immediately start working together as a team and cheer each other on to complete the goal."

For more information on the Etowah Indian Mounds, visit http://gastateparks.org/EtowahIndianMounds or call 770-387-3747. Further details about Red Top can be obtained by visiting http://gastateparks.org/RedTopMountain or calling 770-975-0055.