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Department of Conservation
and Natural Resources
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120


CONTACT: Terry Brady
DCNR Deputy Press Secretary
(717) 772-9101


HARRISBURG (September 15, 2003) — Long hours of hard work and years of continuous service to Pennsylvania state parks has earned two volunteer groups “Take Pride in America” honors and a national salute from the sponsoring U.S. Department of the Interior.

The Pymatuning Lake Association, based in Espyville, Crawford County, and the Central Pennsylvania Unit of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, headquartered in Gettysburg, Adams County, were among only 15 national award winners selected from a field of more than 100 groups and individuals nominated as finalists in this year's awards process.

Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton will officiate at a Sept. 26 national awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Attending will be representatives of Pymatuning Lake Association, which has distinguished itself since 1944 with volunteer work on the lake and in Pymatuning State Park, and Wally Byam Caravan Club members, who have tackled week-long volunteer projects at two southcentral state parks in recent years.

Besides Pymatuning, the award winners have donated time, energy and money to Codorus State Park, York County, and Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Cumberland County. All three parks are among the 116 overseen by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

“Thank you for your generous contributions of stewardship to our nation’s public lands and resources,” Secretary Norton told the award winners in her notification letter. “Your involvement and volunteer effort help to ensure that future generations will enjoy and benefit from our public lands, facilities, cultural and historic resources.”

“Take Pride in America ” awards are presented annually to recognize specific volunteer projects and efforts of individuals, organizations, youth, and public/private partnerships. They recognize outstanding stewardship involving federal, state, local, tribal and private lands, and cultural or historic sites, and are presented on the basis of nominations made and submitted to Take Pride in America officials. Finalists and winners are selected by a panel of reviewers.

“How fitting that two of 15 award-winners from across the nation come from a state where individual and group volunteers continue committing themselves at a record-setting pace in our state parks and forests,” said DCNR Executive Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry John Plonski, who served as Take Pride in America state coordinator. “Last year, the Pymatuning Lake Association and the Wally Byam group contributed heavily to a statewide, record-breaking total of 561,487 hours—the highest amount contributed to DCNR’s Conservation Volunteer Program since its inception in 1997.”

First organized in 1944, the Pymatuning Lake Association originally focused on tourism promotion, but its 225 members have shifted efforts to improving the lake’s noted fishery and its water quality and ecology. Lake habitat improvement efforts, fishing tournaments and other activities are outlined on its website:

“Drawing members from Pittsburgh to Cleveland, Ohio, the association has become a fixture at Pymatuning Lake and the state park that bears its name,” said Plonski. “Whether it is a park cleanup or hosting a fishing tournament to benefit lake habitat improvements, the Pymatuning Lake Association exemplifies what the ‘Take Pride in America’ awards recognize.”

Bearing the name of its founder and designer of its favorite mode of travel—the Airstream trailer—the Wally Byam Caravan chapter camped at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in 2001, and at Codorus State Park in 2002, and devoted a week of volunteer work to park projects. Members renovated buildings at both parks, painted rails and posts, spruced up camping areas, and tackled other duties.

“When you look around at what this club accomplished in one week at both our parks, you realize its members embody exactly what these awards represent,” said Plonski, who oversees DCNR’s Conservation Volunteer Program. “They brought a passion to protect, improve and enhance the natural world to two state parks and left them much better places.”

Anyone interested in becoming a conservation volunteer can contact any state park or forest district office, or visit DCNR's web site through the PA PowerPort at, PA Keywords: “state parks,” or “forests.”

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