Not Your Everyday Earth Day


SCA’s 2016 Earth Day Projects Bring Out 2,173 Volunteers

Each April, as Earth Day draws near, people in communities across America begin thinking more about the health of the planet and wondering what they can do to help improve it. Every year, the Student Conservation Association (SCA) responds by creating Earth Month opportunities for people to connect in local parks and work together to improve their neighborhood green spaces.

In 2016, SCA’s Earth Day projects in New York, DC, California, Indiana, Washington State, Texas, New Hampshire, Michigan, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Alaska engaged 2,173 volunteers in nearly 10,000 hours of service at events in 16 different cities. All those volunteers working together, each contributing a single morning of service, were able to accomplish $235,247 worth of restoration, maintenance, and improvements for their parks!

Bay Area!

In celebration of National Parks Week, many of the projects were held at urban national parks that provide beloved points of contact with the natural world for residents of densely populated surrounding communities. Five of these—in  Seattle, NYC, Chicago, Washington DC, and the San Francisco Bay Area—were part of SCA’s American Express-sponsored #FindYourPark service series, a yearlong campaign to celebrate the National Park Service’s 2016 Centennial by engaging thousands of Americans in hands-on service to our public lands.

In NYC, where 368 volunteers restored 7,500 feet of trail and removed 6,000 pounds of litter and debris for the Fort Wadsworth section of Gateway National Recreation Area, high school student Sneha Singh traveled nearly two hours to join the effort from her neighborhood in Queens, taking advantage of SCA’s free volunteer shuttle from the Staten Island Ferry. “Staten Island is so beautiful,” she said at the event. “Now I want to see more of it.”

Click here for SCA’s full 2016 Earth Day report.

Sneha’s story illustrates how service projects like these are contributing to SCA’s effort to expand and empower a new generation of conservationists who, inspired by the triumphs of the first century of the National Park Service, and wowed by the magnificence of the parks themselves, will lead the charge to celebrate and protect our public lands for the Next 100 years.

For the entire month of May, SCA’s Board of Directors is matching all donations dollar for dollar, which means that right now you can make a doubly impactful gift to help today’s young Americans develop the skills they need to become tomorrow’s conservation leaders.

Make a matched donation today for double the impact.


At the Chicagoland event, which brought 330 volunteers to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore despite heavy rains, Park Ranger Ted Winterfield observed, “We have more different types of plants at Indiana Dunes per unit area than Yellowstone or Yosemite. We’ve got bogs, prairie, dunes, savanna… We may be small by the standards of some National Parks, but we pack a lot of biodiversity into a small space. And we’re just 50 miles outside Chicago, so we would love to see more folks from the city come out and appreciate the resources we have to offer.”

New York!

In the Bay Area, where 383 community members gathered at Golden Gate National Recreation Area to remove 2,760 square feet of harmful invasive plants, restore 865 square feet of camping platforms, and repair 450 feet of fence, Cesar Tapia of Upward Bound said, “The event was a great way to expose local youth to [Golden Gate National Recreation Area] and to conservation efforts. The students felt like they were making a difference in their community.”


306 volunteers showed up to Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum to mark Earth Day by planting trees and yanking 13,100 square feet of invasive weeds. AmeriCorps Director Bill Basl was on hand to partake in service and welcome participants, as was four-time SCA alumna Khadijah Pugh, who spoke on how community and diversity foster conservation which “becomes a lifestyle rather than a hobby. Work doesn’t feel like work at all. Every participant is surrounded with joy and positivity.”

At Greenbelt Park near Washington, DC, 360 volunteers were greeted by SCA CEO Jaime Matyas and Denise Ryan, NPS Deputy Director of Congressional and External Relations, before getting to work removing invasive plants, painting rest stations and picnic tables, restoring three wooden foot bridges, and hauling out 5,000 lbs worth of litter and discarded tires.


Huge thanks to everyone who supported this massive Earth Day undertaking, especially to our volunteers, without whom none of this would have been possible, and to American Express for supporting conservation service in our national parks! Please stay tuned to and follow SCA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find more opportunities to support America’s parks and the young conservationists who will keep them safe for the next 100 years and beyond.