Eight years ago, with seven other like-minded individuals, who she now knows as close friends, Diane Szwajkowski founded the Friends of Beltzville State Park.
She attended the first meeting in response to an ad she saw on local TV.
When she filled out a survey identifying skillsets and interests, leadership wasn’t on her mind, even though she recognized that she had the experience.
She’s been the Chair ever since!
“It’s an honor to be in this group. People are dedicated and come with their hearts,” Diane said.
From the original seven, the Friends Group has grown to 65 members who care deeply about water quality, and accessibility and spreading the word about the beauty of their edge of the Poconos paradise.
The Friends help the park, its staff, and its visitors in a myriad of ways.
Diane remembers fondly that their first project was building a pollinator garden at the park and especially enjoys the conservation work as the Friends carry out conservation projects to remove invasive species and plant native plants.
They improve trail signage to ensure visitors are safe and have a positive experience. They carry out Leave No Trace weekends where they help park staff educate people on the principles of leaving a minimal impact on the outdoors and hand out trash bags to visitors who forgot their own.
A current project that the Friends of Beltzville are excited about is the Sawmill Trail Project, where they are blazing a new trail after a knocked-out bridge made another inaccessible.
They host public events like First Day Hikes on Jan. 1st every year, an Earth Day hike, as well as a Fall Fest each year.
In addition to the public events, The Friends of Beltzville have a hiking group for members and have plans on starting a member kayaking group this summer.
Diane is especially fond of an arts and crafts group that meets monthly. The group’s projects focus on reusing and reducing waste, creating with materials that would otherwise be discarded.
“There are so many ways the volunteers can help and get involved outdoors. There’s something for everybody,” she said.
In the Friends Group, there are opportunities to utilize talents and explore interests. Every time they get together, they laugh and have fun.
“I’m making it fun and if it’s not fun I don’t do it,” Diane said.
Learn more about the Friends of Beltzville’s work on their Facebook Page. If you don’t live near Beltzville and would like to get involved, there are 48 Friends Groups across the state. Click here to find a Friends Group Near You!
About the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation
The Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation supports 124 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, visit https://paparksandforests.org/.