Tag Archives: Mississippi

Urban Parks: An Important Resource

We often talk about getting away from it all or heading out to the woods. We emphasize raw nature and the importance of communing with it. We focus on the splendor available to us here in the States and, when we think generally of the parks, we envision something remote and out of the way. But there’s plenty of natural beauty to take in, whether you’re in rural Colorado or a bustling California metropolis. Here are a few urban parks we shouldn’t take for granted.

Warner Parks–Nashville, TN

A tree in the fall at Nashville's Warner Parks one of the lovely urban parks

The open space of the steeplechase at Nashville’s Warner Parks. [Image: www.warnerparks.org/]

Green, open spaces are necessary for the health of a city and its inhabitants. This point is well understood in Nashville where the beautiful Warner Parks serve this purpose for the nearly one million visitors they host annually. Edwin and Percy Warner Parks offer many ways for Nashvillians to get outdoors, including golf courses, hiking, and equestrian trails as well as a handsome, natural space for a picnic or escape from the urban hustle of the Music City.

Central Park–New York City, NY

Central Park is a familiar urban park to most of us, whether one happens to reside in New York City or not. With over 37 million visitors annually, the park harbors Strawberry Fields, Pale Male the red-tailed hawk, a zoo with snow leopards, horse-drawn carriage rides, and activities as extensive and diverse as New York is itself. But it’s also a very cultivated natural space with over 25,000 trees and miles of walking, biking, and jogging paths—as well as paths that lead to pretzels. The original plan, dreamed up by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, has been largely maintained since 1857, despite some periods of neglect, and adapted to the realities of serving as the primary green space on the island of Manhattan.

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park–Jackson, MS

LeFleur's Bluff State Park offers a break from the bustle in Jackson. [Image: www.mdwfp.com]

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park offers a break from the bustle in Jackson. [Image: www.mdwfp.com/]

How often does one get to go camping in the heart of a city? At LeFleur’s Bluff State Park—a 305-acre gem located right in the thick of Jackson, Mississippi—you can do just that. Or you can check out the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science if you’re not too busy unwinding with a fishing rod, supervise your kids while they enjoy the 16,000 square foot Kid Zone Playground, try your hand at the disc golf course, launch a kayak when the weather’s right, or enjoy any of the numerous nature trails the park offers. The multi-functionality and proximity to nature in this park makes it an asset to Jackson, and certainly a destination for visitors to the city.

Topanga State Park–Los Angeles, CA

Everything the light touches... is in L.A. [Image: www.wikipedia.org]

Everything the light touches…is in L.A. [Image: www.wikipedia.org/]

Topanga State Park is made up of 11,000 rugged, wild, gorgeous, and minimally-developed acres—all located within the city of Los Angeles. It offers well over 30 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders along with backpacking and traditional campsites, many spots with picnicking opportunities and scenic mountain views, and a general escape from the metropolitan airs of L.A.—a city notorious for its smog, gridlock, and sprawl. And while the city is implementing its plan to reduce the environmental issues that plague its populace, Topanga State Park continues to prove to be a necessary open area for city dwellers.

Cities in the United States are built upon industry and hustle, and urban parks give the people who live in cities an opportunity to revel in the benefits of nature and open space, even if most of what surrounds them is man-made. Urban parks, like all of the great and protected natural spaces we enjoy, are entirely relevant and important no matter where we live.

Four State Parks Where You Can Enjoy the Legacy of the CCC

Grand Teton grandeur.

CCC enrollees take in a dazzling view: A future instilled with hope. [Image: www.nps.gov]

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in March of 1933, the country was in the depths of the Great Depression and faced a workforce unemployment rate of nearly 25%. In almost the same breath as his inauguration oath, FDR began presenting programs to Congress and implementing his vision for the New Deal, which promised to help the investors devastated by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, windblown Dust Bowl farmers, and the American people at large to reclaim some of the high spirits and prosperity that had characterized life just a decade earlier.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was one such program, and ran from 1933 until its funding and manpower were diverted to the American WWII effort, in 1942. The CCC was run in part by the U.S. Army, and as such was playfully dubbed “Roosevelt’s Tree Army.” In truth, the CCC was perhaps, not-so-secretly, Roosevelt’s favorite program and it became hugely popular with the general citizenry. In its nine years, the CCC would train and employ some three million American men between the ages of 17 and 28 who were put to work across the United States building infrastructure and establishing, amongst other things, what is now our fantastic and beautiful network of state and national parks. Below is a list of parks still touched by this bright legacy that park-goers can enjoy today.

Longhorn Cavern State Park Burnet, TX

Not only are there amazing rock formations and a stunning natural bridge at this state park, but all of the park’s features and experiences have been highlighted by the careful planning of CCC engineers and carried out dutifully by the corpsmen. The CCC cleaned out the main cavern in 1937, which entailed manually removing debris and guano from its base and tunnels. The workers then built a winsome stairway and installed lighting along a couple of miles of the underground passageways. The experience at this park would not be as enthralling were it not for the clever resourcefulness and dedication of the men of the CCC.

Rugged, yet elegant.

These charming CCC-built structures at Longhorn Cavern work in harmony with the area’s existing natural features. [Image: http://tpwd.texas.gov]

Guernsey State Park Guernsey, WY

This park is one of the best examples of extant CCC construction around. It features many trails, roads, structures, buildings, and even the remnants of a CCC-designed 9-hole golf course, which was abandoned in the 1940s. Perhaps best of all, in addition to the elegant and rugged CCC architecture and facilities, visitors to the park can also gain ten points in the Pocket Ranger® Park Passport GeoChallenge through April 2016.

Still rugged, yet elegant.

At Geurnsey State Park we find another CCC-built structure, handsomely constructed by and with the area’s natural elements. [Image: www.wyohistory.org]

Koke’e State Park Waimea, Kaua’i, HI

The reach of the CCC even extends across the Pacific to the island state of Hawai’i. At Koke’e State Park, the CCC’s compound was built and in use by 1935 and is still a functional park of the park’s experience today. 

Tishomingo State Park Tishomingo, MS

The CCC’s presence is still quite present at Tishomingo State Park. Several of the park features are named for the CCC companies that established the majority of the park’s gorgeous facilities in northeastern Mississippi. Among them are trails, a pond, a “swinging bridge,” several pavilions, and the remnants of the camp the corpsmen used through their tenure at the park. As a bonus for history or pre-history buffs, there are Paleoindian artifacts from as long ago as 7000 B.C.E. as well as rock formations that give the park an air of the ancient.

An American flag flies brightly over an early CCC camp

An American flag flies brightly over an early CCC camp in Grand Teton National Park. [Image: http://www.nps.gov]

Nearly 80 years later, the importance and lasting impact of the program cannot be overstated. While the CCC was in its heyday, approximately three billion trees were planted. Over 200 million of those were planted in the areas hit hardest by drought and windstorms in the Midwest. In just the first year of those trees’ presence, the amount of the rich soil being blown away reduced immensely. In addition to the trees, educational programs were offered regarding soil erosion and animal husbandry that, along with the end of the drought, helped the farmers and their families establish their livelihoods again—and keep them. Modern wildfire fighting and wildfire prevention also have roots in the program, and today’s land and wildlife management owes much to the men who built roads, blazed trails, planted forests, dug ditches and canals, and generally made headway for the many and varied ways we enjoy the natural splendor of our country today—including Pocket Ranger® apps!

National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day 2015 - Square Banner - Solo Hiker [Image: www.publiclandsday.org]

Image: www.publiclandsday.org

Each year, Americans are asked to set aside one day—the last Saturday in September—to “lend a hand to the lands” that we use to enjoy the outdoors. National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands, and this year, it’s taking place on Saturday, September 26th.

You can join thousands of volunteers who will gather at parks, forests, reservoirs, and other public areas to help improve and steward our nation’s natural resources. There will be opportunities to build bridges and trails, plant stream banks, restore lakes and wetlands, remove invasive plants, improve wildlife habitat, repair cultural resources and recreational facilities, and carry out hundreds of other projects. Volunteers will also learn about the importance of public lands to the nation’s environmental, economic, and social health as well as get a firsthand perspective on the problems and issues facing land managers.

If you love the outdoors, here’s your chance to give back to nature! Mark your calendar for September 26th, and find a NPLD site near you by checking the list below or visiting publiclandsday.org. And don’t forget to use our Pocket Ranger® apps during your visit to our beloved parks, forests, and lakes!

Red Rock State Park – Sedona, AZ

Maintenance and cleanup of park facilities, trails, and Oak Creek riparian areas. Park interpreters will be available for questions regarding the Oak Creek and its importance to Arizona.

Call 928-282-6907 or click here for more information.

Lake Dardanelle State Park – Russellville, AR

Join Lake Dardanelle State Park to celebrate this national cleanup event in conjunction with the Great Arkansas Cleanup to help pick up trash along the lake and throughout the community. Volunteers clean trails, shorelines, and public parks around Russellville. Following the cleanup will be a ceremony for all those who volunteered and a free lunch along with activities for the whole family.

Call 479-890-7479 or click here for more information.

The Barnacle Historic State Park – Coconut Grove, FL

Partake in a morning of park cleanup, landscape beautification, and exotic plant removal. At the conclusion of the event, Park Rangers will provide free lunch and a tour of the historic house for registered volunteers. Participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Call 305-442-6866 or click here for more information.

George L. Smith State Park – Twin City, GA

Saturday, September 26th is Your State Parks Day. Come out and help with park cleanup and beautification projects. Free T-shirts, water bottles and other goodies will be given to all volunteers.

Call 478-763-2759 or click here for more information.

Sterling State Park – Monroe, MI

Help collect native prairie seed from grasses and wildflowers to restore Lakeplain Prairie.

Call 517-719-2285 or click here for more information.

Tombigbee State Park – Tupelo, MS

Beginning in 2015, Toyota Mississippi will kick-off a five-year NPLD project at Tombigbee State Park. Kids Camp will be offered to children under age 12 with projects that include an interactive water conservation activity provided by Mississippi 4-H as well as painting and building bird houses and feeders. NPLD will conclude with a volunteer celebration including a BBQ lunch, fishing, disc golf, live music, and door prizes (must be present to win). Over the five years, the park will be completely renovated including cabin restoration, bridge construction, installation along nature trails, removal of invasive vegetation, planting flowers and shrubs, welcome center renovations, and overall park beautification.

Call 662-317-3038 or click here for more information.

Onondaga Cave State Park – Leasburg, MO

Attend the Green Living Fall Festival and National Public Lands Day Bio-Blitz! The day’s activities will center around villages and will contain a variety of topics, including educational activities, hands-on activities, vendors, displays and demonstrations, green products, local farming, and sustainable living. The bio-blitz, in honor of National Public Lands Day, will feature experts in a variety of scientific and ecological fields leading groups to identify and record species of flora and fauna throughout the park. The public is invited to voluntarily participate in any group. The Onondaga Friends Association will be demonstrating the making of apple butter and freshly canned jars will be available for sale along with many, many other vendor items.

Call 573-245-6576 or click here for more information.

Elk Knob State Park – Todd, NC

Head over to Elk Knob State Park for National Public Lands Day where you can help work on maintaining the Summit Trail or the new Maple Run Trail. Tools will be provided. Bring water, lunch, and work gloves and wear close-toed shoes.

Call 828-297-7261 or click here for more information.

Black Moshannon State Park – Philipsburg, PA

Help beautify Black Moshannon State Park! Projects include trail maintenance, native plant gardening, litter pickup, and planting. Pre-registration is required. Lunch will be provided and free camping is available that weekend for volunteers.

Call 814-342-5960 or click here for more information.

Bledsoe Creek State Park – Gallatin, TN

Help put together playground equipment at Bledsoe Creek State Park!

Call 615-347-3639 or click here for more information.

Your State’s Mammal

There is nothing more earthly than the site of wildlife in a state park. If you love seeing wildlife, then you’ll be interested to know which animal belongs to your state. While exploring the parks with your state’s Pocket Ranger® app in hand, keep your eyes peeled for some of these state mammals!

Alabama

Black bear near trees

Image: www.newsrender.com

This state’s mammal is the black bear. They are intelligent, shy and very secretive. Black bears aren’t always just black in color; their colors can range from cinnamon, white beige and grey. Adult black bears weigh 130-150 pounds and they are omnivorous.

Florida

Beige panther sitting on tree branch

Image: www.evergladesassociation.org

This carnivorous mammal of Florida is the panther. Adult female panthers weigh 64-100 pounds, while the males weigh 100-159 pounds. The panther’s underbelly is creamy white and the tip of the tails and ears is black. Panthers are usually black, white or beige. Currently, the Florida Panther is listed on the endangered species list.

Maine

Brown moose by water

Image: traveltips.usatoday.com

Maine’s state mammal is the moose. They have long legs, a heavy body, small tail and a drooping nose. Their color ranges from golden brown to black. Moose are herbivores and consume plants or fruits. The males weigh about 840-1,540 pounds, while the female weighs 440-790 pounds.

Mississippi

White tailed deer with baby white tailed deer

Image: animals.nationalgeographic.com

The while-tailed deer is Mississippi’s state mammal. They are reddish brown in the spring and summer and they turn grey-brown throughout fall and winter. When they feel alarmed, they raise their tail to warn other deer. The males weigh 130-290 pounds and the females weigh 88-198 pounds. Whitetail deer eat legumes, leaves, grasses, fruits, acorns and corn.

New Jersey

Horseback riding, mountains in the background

Image: mtnvacations.net

Horses are New Jersey‘s state mammal. The size of horses varies by breed and by their nutrition. Light riding horses weigh 840-1,210 pounds and larger horses weigh 1,100-1,300 pounds. A horses diet consists of hay, grains, corn and fruits. Horses come in all kinds of colors, such as black, chestnut and gray.

New York

Brown beaver in sand

Image: www.gambassa.com

Who knew that a beaver was New York’s state animal? These mammals can weigh over 40 pounds and mate for life during their third year. Beavers have webbed feet and a scaly tail. They have poor eyesight but have a great sense of smell, touch and hearing. Their diet consists of plant tubers, roots, shoots and herbaceous plants. Beavers build dams to flood areas for protection from predators and to provide underwater entrances for their den.

South Dakota

Beige coyote walking in dirt

Image: a-z-animals.com

The coyote is South Dakota‘s mammal. They are smart and have a great sense of smell. Coyotes can attain a speed of 64 miles per hour! Their color varies from grayish brown to yellowish gray, and they weigh 16-46 pounds. Coyotes will change their diet and breeding habits to accommodate their changing environment.

Washington

Brown Olympic Marmot sitting in grass

Image: gerritvyn.photoshelter.com

The Olympic Marmot is Washington‘s state mammal. They are rodents in the squirrel family. Their head is wide with small eyes and ears and the tail is bushy. They weigh 7-30 pounds. Olympic Marmot’s are leaf-eating animals, occasionally eating fruits and insects.

People hiking up trail in state park

Image: www.lagrangemoms.com

Wondering where you can find wildlife? After downloading your state’s Pocket Ranger® app, you can easily find which state park nearest you has wildlife viewing as well as other activities. Have you been taking lots of great pics of wildlife while exploring the wilderness? Use the Trophy Case® app to share your photos with a community of fellow fish and wildlife lovers!

Suggested Gear List:

  • Binoculars
  • Shades
  • Hydration Waist Pack

Check out these supplies at our Gear Store to make your wildlife viewing experience exceptional!

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