Submitted by San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau.
Public lands and visitors go together like wine and cheese; peanut butter and jelly; bacon and eggs.
Classic pairings since time immemorial.
This year, National Public Lands Day, which is always the fourth Saturday in September, comes right on the heels of World Tourism Day on Sept. 27, adding a new pairing to the pantheon.
National Public Lands Day is the largest, single-day volunteer effort for America’s public lands. Intentional or not, World Tourism Day 2019 takes a closer look at volunteer travel by tracing the evolution of travelers’ philanthropy, which today represents a broad array of travel giving programs. Such programs are recognized as a core component of responsible tourism. According to a recent survey, 47 percent of travelers would book a destination because it offers a volunteer opportunity they are passionate about, a trend that shows no signs of slowing as voluntourism has become a $174 billion industry worldwide.
Visitors to the San Juan Islands, like most travelers, are seeking new and unusual experiences. A volunteer vacation doubles that by giving back to the communities that welcome them.
For National Public Lands Day, efforts in the San Juans will be centered on beach and road cleanups — a golden opportunity to get locals’ and visitors’ hands dirty and their hearts invested in taking care of the islands. As writer Andrea Zimmerman, who the visitors bureau hosted for the spring cleanup at Moran State Park, said, “I had the chance to talk with a few very kind people who call Orcas their home; having a first-hand conversation allowed me to both confirm and shatter any illusions I may have had coming in. I got the real story and — spoiler alert — it’s a good one. The folks who call Orcas home love their island and are fiercely protective of it.”
Encouraging this kind of connection turns visitors into stewards — ones who will pass the message along after they return home.
San Juan Islands’ parks, trails and beaches aren’t the only ones that benefit from National Public Lands Day. Nature offers one of the most reliable boosts to mental and physical well-being. Spending time in the outdoors has been found to improve short-term memory, concentration and creativity — while reducing the effects of stress and anxiety. Volunteering on NPLD is an excellent opportunity to spend time with family and friends and enjoy the many benefits that come from connecting with nature. Join the staff of the visitors bureau who will be donating their time on San Juan Island for NPLD. Visit facebook.com/TheGreatIslandsCleanup to get involved.