Sales of a guidebook that directs users to outdoor fun in Pennsylvania have been soaring since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The book has been very popular — with 2020 being a record sale — we sold over 5,000 copies of the Pennsylvania State Parks and State Forests Passport,” said Marci Mowery, president of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation.
The PPFF, which recently helped establish a volunteer “friends” group for the Locust Lake and Tuscarora state parks in Barnesville, publishes the book.
Spiral bound, it mentions all state parks and forests along with activities they offer.
“With a growing interest in the outdoors, it provides new users of our parks and forests background to help enjoy their visit and a tool by which to organize your visits,” Mowery said.
Readers make note of each place they’ve visited, report it to the PPFF and can earn small metal “dog tag” trinkets.
The first part of the book gives background information and history on parks and forests. Readers learn about the benefits of being outdoors and guidelines for low-impact recreation.
“We then have themes, which are a variety of ways that you might enjoy exploring. For example, history, vistas, water recreation, biking, hiking, with kids and more,” Mowery explained.
Those who visit 10 places within a particular theme can earn a “champion tag” by completing a form telling the PPFF what they did.
“We created the themes to give users an opportunity to learn more about what interests them. It is a place to start, so to speak,” Mowery said.
There are maps, too, and a section that offers brief descriptions about each of the 121 state parks and 20 forest districts. There are blank squares where users can log their visits.
“When you visit these locations, you can get a stamp in your passport or initial that you have visited,” Mowery said.
Those who make it to every park and forest win the “See Them All Challenge” and earn a special gift from the PPFF.
“We hear back from families, children, adults, retirees and more on how they are using and enjoying their passport,” Mowery said.
She noted that Pennsylvania parks offer free admission and parking, which makes them easily accessible. Last year, visitation numbers at state parks jumped by 23%.
“They are welcoming places for people to protect their physical, mental and emotional health while also connecting with family and friends — or sometimes to one’s self,” Mowery said.
The book, modeled after the National Park System’s passport, can be be purchased at paparksandforests.org, where it is listed for $10.60 per copy.
Jill Whalen is a staff writer at the Hazleton Standard-Speaker who began her career as a correspondent for the newspaper’s former Shenandoah office and as an editorial assistant in Hazleton. She was the sole reporter at the Standard-Speaker’s Tamaqua bureau until its merger with the Pottsville Republican-Herald. Since then, she has worked in the Hazleton office primarily as a features writer. Whalen resides in Schuylkill County. Contact her at email@example.com or 570-501-3592.