Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe, entertainer CeeLo Green, and hundreds of volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site to celebrate the 20th annual National Public Lands Day. Nationwide, an estimated 180,000 volunteers are expected today at more than 2,000 sites across the country for the largest, single-day volunteer effort on behalf of parks and other public lands.
"With thousands of people giving of their time and labor from coast to coast to restore our country's historic places and natural treasures, National Public Lands Day reflects the great American spirit of volunteerism," Jewell said.
Secretary Jewell and hundreds of volunteers participated in activities such as pulling weeds at the "I Have a Dream" International World Peace Rose Garden, removing invasive plants at Freedom Park, and cleaning the interior of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was baptized, ordained and served as a co-pastor until his tragic death in 1968.
"It is appropriate that we celebrate this day here in Atlanta, the birthplace of a great American who tapped into the willingness of Americans to go beyond themselves for a greater good," Jewell said. "It is Dr. King's spirit of service and volunteerism and his desire to create a better America and stronger communities that continues to motivate us today."
Jewell applauded the The National Environmental Education Foundation, which created National Public Lands Day in 1994 and helps faciliate the participation of eight federal agencies and more than 250 state, county and city partners, and nonprofit organizations.
In 1994, National Public Lands Day had just three sites and 700 volunteers. Last year, more than 175,000 volunteers participated, collecting an estimated 23,000 pounds of invasive plants, building and maintaining an estimated 1,500 miles of trails, planting about 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants, and removing an estimated 500 tons of trash from trails and other places.
"Tight budgets and fiscal uncertainty make volunteer efforts at places like our national and local parks and wildlife refuges even more critical to ensuring that they remain healthy and accessible for all Americans," said Jewell.
On the eve of National Public Lands Day, Jewell visited with more than 50 local youth who were camping - many for the first time - on the grounds of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site before joining today's volunteer efforts.
"Getting out on the public lands to volunteer is a great way to give back to the community while also gaining a better appreciation for the importance of these important places," said Jewell. "Not only can we improve the lands we enjoy for outdoor recreation, but we can also help kids create a connection with nature that will last a lifetime."
There are a variety of opportunities to get involved, connect with people in your community and protect and promote our public lands. Visit http://www.volunteer.gov to search for other opportunities throughout the year.