August 5, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For additional information, contact Marci Mowery at 717-236-7644 or [email protected].
Honoring PA’s Park and Forest COVID-19 Champions of Philadelphia
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. 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, the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation focused its 2021 annual awards, sponsored by Recreational Equipment Incorporated, on those “COVID-19 Champions” who exemplified the creativity, flexibility, and determination to make sure outdoor recreation, education programs, and the stewardship of natural areas could continue in a safe manner.
On August 3, PPFF staff awarded honorees at Tacony Creek Park in Philadelphia. Those honored included:
The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership was presented the COVID-19 Champion Stewardship Award. TTF works to improve the health and vitality of the watershed in the Philadelphia region. Much of its work centers around the 300-acre Tacony Creek Park. The pandemic provided further evidence that environmental justice issues and adequate access to outdoor recreation is more important than ever. TTF staff quickly went virtual to continue connecting community members with nature through online tours of the outdoors, highlighting the flora and fauna that could be found in local natural spaces. Despite pandemic challenges, TTF took action to connect more deeply with their constituents, offering safe, socially-distanced walks and yoga events, creating bilingual publications, organizing tree giveaways, and working with the city to provide lunches to children.
AeLin Compton, Community Initiative Specialist for the Park Stewardship Team in Philadelphia’s Department of Parks & Recreation, was presented with the COVID-19 Champion Stewardship Award. When financial cuts decimated the City’s park budget, in spite of the fact that park usage was at its highest due to the pandemic, AeLin went above and beyond to help. She developed socially-distanced volunteer events to help mitigate trash problems in the parks and continued monthly Second Saturday workdays to engage and train volunteers in natural lands restoration projects. AeLin co-created and launched the Philly Forest Stewards program, which trains individuals in forest maintenance and invasive species mitigation, and worked daily to support dozens of friends groups in their stewardship efforts for neighborhood parks.
Brandi Aulston, Founder of Hike and Heal, was presented the COVID-19 Champion Ambassador Award. Brandi recognized that not all women in the Philadelphia area were familiar with or comfortable in the region’s natural spaces. She wanted to offer all women an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and grow together in nature which is why she formed Hike and Heal in 2019. Throughout the pandemic, she regularly offered group hikes for women, primarily in Wissahickon Valley Park, as well as supportive virtual “hangouts” called “Hopeful Hours” and “Healing Hours”. Positive experiences of those participating in Brandi’s activities show how all women, despite experience or location, can share time in nature and grow their understanding of themselves and each other in a safe and healthy manner. Brandi’s efforts made human connection possible during a time of isolation.
These honorees were among 20 individuals and organizations honored across the state who were recognized by PPFF during a virtual ceremony in May. The full printed program and virtual ceremony can be found at https://paparksandforests.org/event/the-covid-19-virtual-awards/.
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, visit https://paparksandforests.org/. Follow us on social media:
LinkedIn: Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation