2013-03-07 / Local & State

Help Keep Cowans Gap Beautiful

Volunteers sought for variety of programs at Cowans Gap State Park
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz


Almost one year into his new position at Cowans Gap State Park, manager Ryan Donovan continues to strive to boost interest in the park and lake that draw in visitors with its natural beauty, amenities and down-home, friendly service. As part of his plan for the future, Donovan will be instituting a “volunteer initiative” this spring that will hopefully result in a renewed sense of ownership for local residents and other park visitors.

“We’re hoping to build up a volunteer base that will continue to grow year to year,” said the park manager, who added volunteers will continue to be an integral part of the state park system as available funding and manpower get smaller and smaller.

Beginning in April, the park will host a monthly work day. Beginning with the annual salute to Earth Day on Saturday, April 27, individual volunteers, groups and organizations will be given an opportunity to showcase their talents through general duties such as cleanup, painting, trail work and constructing picnic tables.

There is no age limit to participate, so anyone from young adults to senior citizens are welcome to participate. Donovan is also encouraging Scouting groups and other organizations to lend a hand during these specially designated work days.

In addition to the April 27 Earth Day celebration and spring cleanup, additional work days will be held at Cowans Gap on May 18, June 15, July 20, August 17 and September 28 in conjunction with National Public Lands Day. Work hours will be held between 9 a.m. and noon. All tools and materials will be provided.

Preregistration is required through the park office, with a deadline of April 22 established for Earth Day.

“We want to instill an ownership in the park,” Donovan stated. In addition to workdays, the park is also searching for individuals willing to assist at the environmental education center overseen by the park naturalist. Donovan indicated individuals would primarily be needed between Memorial Day and Labor Day, in particular when educational programs are being held and on weekends. Duties would include manning the desk at the center, greeting visitors and distributing literature.

Designed for groups, organizations and trail clubs, the Adopt-ATrail program is also being promoted at Cowans Gap. The program requires a two-year contractual commitment as workers are required to donate their time a minimum of six times annually in maintaining a specific trail or trail section within the boundaries of the park.

Donovan said these committed volunteers will oversee erosion control, maintain trail signs, pick up litter, clear brush or fallen trees, remove invasive species of plants and blaze trails. “It’s a fairly prolonged commitment, requiring physical labor,” he said. “ ... It’s just another way we can keep the trails at the park sustainable, nice and user friendly.”

For those with a penchant for birdwatching, the Cavity Nesting Trail volunteer program offered at Cowans Gap allows for the construction of nesting habit for cavity nesting birds at the park, the collection of information on population and reproduction statistics and the education of the public on stewardship practices.

Donovan labeled this program, which is found in between 30 and 40 other state parks in the commonwealth, as a “fairly big commitment.” Even though participants are provided with their own box materials and maintenance tools, they are required to check the boxes weekly during the nesting season and record any activity. All field data is returned to the park office by mid-September and will eventually make its way to groups such as the Audubon Society for additional studies.

The program is not just limited to bluebirds, Donovan said, and can be geared toward other birds such as owls and wood ducks.

Anyone wishing to volunteer their time and services at Cowans Gap State Park is asked to call the park office at 717-485-3948.

Return to top