July 26, 2021
For additional information, contact Marci Mowery at 717-236-7644 or [email protected].

Honoring PA’s Park and Forest COVID-19 Champions of the Greater Harrisburg Area
The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation presents in-person awards

Camp Hill, PA –  While many aspects of daily life were stalled by quarantine and distancing throughout the pandemic, it was universally recognized that outside was the place to be for our mental and physical well being thus the use of public outdoor spaces exploded.

Nearly 47 million people visited Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests in 2020 not to mention the tremendous increase in use of municipal parks, community playgrounds, trails and waterways.  Throughout the ever-changing pandemic situation, staff and volunteers serving Pennsylvania’s public lands rose to the challenges all while accommodating a record number of visitors.  In honor of these dedicated individuals and organizations, the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation focused its 2021 annual awards, sponsored by Recreational Equipment Incorporated, on those “COVID-19 Champions” recognizing those who went above and beyond to improve the visitor experience, create a welcoming environment, provide innovative programming, and show leadership and creativity in support of the outdoors.

On July 14, Marci Mowery, President of PPFF, awarded the Harrisburg area honorees at an in-person ceremony outside of the Rachel Carson State Office Building alongside PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.

Those honored included:

  • Cindy Hogeman, a founding member of the Capital Area Greenbelt Association, took volunteerism to a new level after assuming management of the Five Senses Garden, a beloved place of respite on the Greenbelt. She updated gardening practices and facilitated a partnership with the Harrisburg Keystone Rotary Club for updates to the Martin Luther King Garden, all while expanding their volunteer base. (The COVID-19 Champion award for Stewardship was sponsored by Stahl Sheaffer Engineering.)
  • The 4-person Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Communications Team comprised of Director Chris Novak, Press Secretary Terry Brady, Digital Director Tara Ramsey, and Deputy Digital Director Al Germann played an instrumental role in helping Pennsylvanians navigate the outdoors during the pandemic by way of timely information that helped to prevent confusion and ensure safe use of the state parks and forests, all of which remained open for visitors. (The COVID-19 Champions Award for Communications was sponsored by Art Communication Systems.)
  • Acknowledged but not present were the 53 members of the DCNR Bureau of Forestry, Division of Forest Fire Protection, Incident Response Team. The Team’s skills were called upon to establish and maintain COVID-19 testing sites, assist county emergency personnel, and support logistical operations at PEMA.

-Acknowledged but not present were the 232 Park and Forest Rangers statewide who were recognized for going above and beyond to ensure public safety while handling an unprecedented level of visitation.  Many of which performed special details at alternate work locations to provide support for those parks and forests experiencing capacity issues.

The Harrisburg honorees were among 20 honorees across the state who were recognized by PPFF during a virtual ceremony in May. The full printed program and a video of the virtual program, including a presentation by Dr. Michael Suk on the value of outdoors to human health, can be found at  https://paparksandforests.org/event/the-covid-19-virtual-awards/

Though the pandemic contributed to increased visitors, use of our state’s parks and forests has grown greatly over the past three decades. The critical need for adequate staffing and for infrastructure repair and replacement facing our state’s parks and forests puts additional pressure on existing staff as well as on the volunteer Friends groups who work alongside them to steward these public lands. To learn more about the one billion dollar need, visit https://protectourparksandforests.org/.


About the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation

The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation supports 121 state parks and 2.2 million acres of forest by coordinating volunteers, activities, and donations through its 48 chapters. The mission of the foundation is to inspire stewardship of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests. To learn more about PPFF or to view the complete COVID-19 Champions virtual awards ceremony, sponsored by REI, visit https://paparksandforests.org/. Follow us on social media:

Facebook:  @PennsylvaniaParksAndForestsFoundation
Twitter:  @PaPFF
Instagram: @paparksandforests
LinkedIn:  Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation


Left to right: Marci Mowery, President PA Parks and Forests Foundation, Cindy Hogeman, Capital Area Greenbelt Association, (Back) Cindy Adams Dunn, Secretary, PA DCNR, Chris Novak, Director, Office of Communications, PA DCNR, Gretchen Leslie, Senior Advisor, PA DCNR, Diane Kripas, Division Chief, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation’s Partnerships Division, PA DCNR

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Honoring PA’s Park and Forest COVID-19 Champions of the Greater Harrisburg Area