This International Picnic Day (June 19), the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF) encourages you to visit one of the 121 state parks and 20 forest districts for some dining al fresco. According to the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) – the agency that manages state parks and forests – nearly every state park has picnic facilities and there are 27 designated picnic areas within state forests. Picnic sites usually have picnic tables, nearby restrooms, drinking water, and trash receptacles. Some also have charcoal grills and play areas nearby. If you are picnicking with extended family and friends, you can reserve a picnic pavilion or picnic grove online here or by calling 888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757), Monday through Saturday, 7 am to 5 pm.
Picnicking for the Planet
Once you have decided where and when to picnic, what else do you need to know? One good source of information is the Center for Outdoor Ethics. Their Leave No TraceTM principles were developed to help people have a light footprint on the land. While they tend to be applied to hiking and camping, they can also be used for activities like picnicking. Below are the seven principles, paraphrased for your picnic experience:
- Plan ahead: Know what to bring, how to dispose of items properly, and what to do in case of an emergency.
- Picnic in the right place: Choose spots designated for picnicking and cooking whenever possible, and avoid streambanks and other areas prone to erosion, as well as areas with lots of vegetation that could be damaged.
- Dispose of waste properly: Plan on taking your trash with you when you are done in case there isn’t a garbage can handy. That’s the “pack in, pack out” mentality.
- Leave what you find: Make sure the area where you picnic look as good, or better, then when you arrived.
- Minimize campfire impacts: A stove or grill can be a way to avoid any impacts, but if you build a campfire, try to use an existing fire ring/pit, be aware of the current wildfire risk, buy firewood locally to reduce pest risks, and clean up the site when you are done. See the newest infographic on the PPFF website to learn more about campfire safety: https://paparksandforests.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/campfire-savvy.pdf.
- Respect wildlife: Don’t feed anything to wildlife and dispose of your trash properly so animals can’t get access to it.
- Be considerate of others: Keep your music and noise down if others are nearby, clean up after you are done, and help everyone have a great time outdoors.
For more detailed information on the seven principles, please visit www.lnt.org/7-principles.
Now you know where to picnic, and how to do it in an environmentally-friendly manner, but what do you need to bring?
“A picnic hamper or cooler are essential,” says Marci Mowery, President of PPFF, “but the style and size will depend on how much food and drink you’re bringing. Other helpful items are reusable utensils, plates, cups, cloth napkins, a trash bag, a picnic blanket, and camping pots and pans if you plan on doing some cooking.”
“Picnicking is a great way to connect with family and friends,” Mowery continues, “but please be sure to leave the picnic area as clean—or better—than you found it for the benefit of the next user, as well as to protect wildlife. Wildlife that develops a taste for human food can become a pest, often at the expense the wildlife’s well-being.”
For a more robust list of picnic essentials, visit https://www.thespruce.com/top-supplies-for-picnics-1197628.
All this talk of picnics is making us hungry! But what can we eat? If you are looking for something special and easy to cook for your next picnic, download the free “Happiness Over a Flame” campfire cooking booklet from the PPFF website here. It offers a wide variety of snacks, main meals, and desserts that you can cook at nearly any campground or picnic spot. This includes the “Sore Thumbs” appetizer, made with just two ingredients (crescent roll dough and a jam, fruit, or sauce filling), and “Thanksgiving in a Packet”, with all the goodness of the holiday in an aluminum foil pouch!