As weather warms this spring, state parks in the counties of Cambria and Somerset are gearing up for a rush of visitors eager to fish, bird-watch and discover wildflowers.
“Yes, the fishing is big,” said Kimberly Peck, environmental education specialist at Laurel Hill, Kooser and Laurel Ridge state parks. “But we also have visitors who come to watch for butterflies and birds and wildflowers.”
Blooms like the trillium and jack-in-the-pulpit are popular signs of spring at the park that should be popping up soon, she said.
“They are absolutely worth seeing. Come, check them out and get to know our native plants,” she said.
Of course, hikes on the parks’ many nature trails are reason enough to get outside this spring. But many people don’t realize how many types of programs the parks have to offer, such as International Migrating Bird Day on May 11, she added. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources maintains a website with event listings for each state park: dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks.
Organizers also put together events geared toward families and children, said Beth Garner, environmental education specialist at Prince Gallitzin State Park in Cambria County. One of those is a series of DiscoverE programs, where kids from ages 4 to 17 can participate in classes and eventually earn a certificate and badge after racking up a number of hours.
Programs on geocaching — using a GPS unit to discover caches hidden around the park — also have become a hit, she added.
“Families enjoy the programs and like that they are kid-friendly,” Garner said. “A lot of our groups are families who are staying in the campground but the general public is welcome.”
Prince Gallitzin Park’s 398-site tent and trailer campground has become a quick getaway for families with cabin fever, according to Assistant Park Manager Tim Yeager. Cottages and cabins also are available at the parks. Camping at the state parks opens up the second Friday in April.
For families with younger children, park staff are working to plan to have a new playset along the shoreline of the park’s 1,635-acre Glendale Lake by Memorial Day, he added.
“We have a lot of local visitors,” Yeager said.
“There’s a sincere appreciation and care for the park. We’re really happy to see that, and we do all we can to keep the park carefully maintained.”
Staff photos by Kecia Bal
“Spring Recreation 1” — A blue heron, part of a collection of animal mounts at Laurel Hill State Park, is one of the popular birds visitors seek out at the park.
“Spring Recreation 2” — Kimberly Peck, environmental education specialist at Laurel Hill State Park, shows a blue heron mount, one of the birds visitors watch for at the park.
“Spring Recreation 3” — Mandy Smith from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (standing) conducts a family fishing program at Prince Gallitzin State Park last summer.
‘Sincere appreciation and care’
State park employees prep for spring recreation