DINGMANS FERRY - About 13 miles south of Milford at the end of brief drive up a narrow, curvy Briscoe Mountain Road, travelers will arrive at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC). They’re gearing up for April 22 festivities, because at the center, Earth Day is the year’s principal holiday. Located next to a large pond on a 38-acre campus, surrounded by 70,000 acres of National Park Service land, the center is a huge outdoor classroom right in our backyard. Its mission is to “enhance environmental awareness, knowledge, and appreciation through hands-on experience in a natural outdoor classroom.” The center is very serious about its mission as evidenced by the varied year-round programs it runs. For 34 years, they have provided educational hands-on experiences for schools, scouts, families, and educators. In fact, 60-percent of their visitors are school-age children, according to Flo Mauro, the center’s director of marketing and development. In addition to 10 permanent staff members and 20-25 seasonal employees, volunteers comprise a vital workforce component of the education center’s programs and grounds maintenance. Mauro said, “We can’t have our special events without our volunteers.
.We love them.” There are more than 100 community people who volunteer during the year to help clean trails, work at special programs, landscape and garden, assist with direct mailings, and much more. Maria Poff, the center’s communication specialist, said, “Sometimes we ask people if they’ll just carry a bag when they’re walking on our trails and pick up trash. They can consider themselves volunteers just by cleaning up our trails.” The center has twelve miles of hiking trails that are free and open to the public. The Pocono Environmental Education Center began in 1972 at the former Honeymoon Haven, which the National Park Service took for the abandoned Tocks Island Dam project. Keystone Junior College and the National Park Service formed a special-use partnership in 1972 to create the center. When the center transferred to being a non-profit organization in 1986, it began to expand substantially. Now it represents a unique partnership between a private, non-profit organization and the park service, a government agency. On Saturday, April 22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., PEEC is holding its 11th Annual Earth Day Family Festival, and about 30 volunteers will be helping out. The public is invited to participate in activities including hiking, crafts, live music, animal and natural history presentations, pond study, and more. Educational displays will be available as well. In past years, as many as 600 people have attended this event. The day will also feature grand opening ceremonies for a new Visitor Activity Center, a multi-purpose building, and two new guest lodges. The grand opening ceremony for the new additions is at noon. Admission is $5 per vehicle. For more information, contact the Pocono Environmental Education Center at 570-828-2319.