Pennsylvanians can help make state parks a little greener without even stepping outside thanks to an ongoing campaign by Odwalla, a national natural food and beverage company.
Partnering with the Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation, Odwalla's Plant a Tree program will buy one tree for a Pennsylvania state park each time a resident logs on to the project's Web site (www.parkvisitor.com/odwalla) and chooses a location for the new sapling with a mouse click.
The Web site doesn't require residents to donate to the cause or register with a username, making participation a fast and easy way to help Mother Nature thrive close to home.
Contributing a total of $100,000 for the project, Odwalla will divide the sum among state park beneficiaries in 10 other states besides Pennsylvania, judging by the amount of online "votes." That's why it's important for residents to visit the site and ensure that their state parks get a fair share of the funds. California, New York, Florida, Colorado, Utah, Ohio, Texas, Maryland, Michigan and Virginia are also participating.
This year marks Odwalla's second mass tree-planting mission, after it enabled 60,000 seedlings to take root across the country in 2008. Locations picked for potential planting need reinforcement for pre-existing trees to perform their natural eco-friendly functions. In Pennsylvania, the partnership promises to plant where "erosion control, vegetative buffers or habitat enhancement" are necessary.
Last year, Prince Gallitzin State Park in Cambria County received $10,000 to help remedy shoreline denigration on nearby Glendale Lake. The amount translated into about 600 trees, which were planted by volunteers from the horticulture program at Altoona VoTech school.
According to Christina Novak, press secretary for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, you should never underestimate the environmental importance of planting a tree.
"Trees are multi-taskers," she said. "They have lots of value ... they clean air, store carbon and help to improve water quality by eliminating runoff."
Not only do trees provide habitats for many animal species, she added, but they keep other habitats suitable for life by acting as cooling agents for surrounding water.
Novak urges people to log on and spend that minute or two giving Pennsylvania parks their support.
"This is a great resource for our state park system," she said. "State parks belong to all of us. It takes very little effort, but it's a good way to attract additional resources."
The Plant a Tree project started on Memorial Day and will continue to run until December 31, or until all funds have been promised.
Jennifer Rizzi can be reached at 412-263-1985 or firstname.lastname@example.org .