LINESVILLE — First thing in the morning on April 22, pull on your boots and head for Pymatuning State Park. Gloves, colorful orange vests and lots of garbage bags will be waiting.

Pick your favorite location: the world-famous Spillway just outside Linesville, where hungry ducks spend their summers stomping around on the backs of equally-hungry carp; or Shelter 4 in Jamestown, not far from the popular Jamestown Marina.

From 8:30 to 11 a.m., two of the most heavily-used areas of Pennsylvania’s largest state park will be the focus of local participants in the third annual Great Pennsylvania Cleanup.

“It’s all about putting on gloves and picking up trash — getting a little dirty trying to do something good for the environment,” said Brian Pilarcik, watershed specialist for Crawford County Conservation District.

He should know. For the past six years, Pilarcik and Linda Armstrong, environmental education specialist at Pymatuning, have headed annual cleanup efforts. This year will be no different, with Pilarcik coordinating activities in Linesville and Armstrong doing the same in Jamestown. “We’ve had anywhere from 20 to 15 just at Linesville,” Pilarcik said. “It can be a small group or a very large group.”

“This is a great opportunity to get out in the community, do some cleanup and help keep Pennsylvania beautiful,” said Diane Neukum, a watershed manager with the state Department of Environmental Protection. She urged area residents to help protect and preserve one of the state’s premier natural resources.

While both Pilarcik and Armstrong stress the camaraderie of the day, Armstrong sees an added benefit: “When you pick up waste, it’s good for your waist,” she said with a smile.

The problem, Pilarcik and Armstrong agree, is that visitors to an incredibly beautiful area can be incredible slobs.

“It’s amazing how many cigarette butts there are laying around on the ground — and those take more than a decade to decompose,” Pilarcik said. “We’ve probably found anything you can imagine that someone would throw away.”

Standing on the Spillway, Pilarcik pointed to a large brown trash container directly across the street from the concession area. “We get the bulk of our trash from that area — within 20 to 30 yards of that Dumpster,” he said. “You would think that people could walk over and put their trash into the Dumpster, but it doesn’t happen.”

The fact that it doesn’t happen creates more than just an aesthetic problem for park visitors. “If people just picked up after themselves, I wouldn’t have to take birds to the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to try to get fish hooks out of them and remove fishing line that’s been entangled around their feet,” Armstrong said.

And then there are the plastic ties from bread wrappers people bring along when they come to feed the ducks and fish. “We’re hoping to eventually eliminate them, because they cause major problems for the wildlife,” she said. “They’re shiny little plastic squares. Some animals and some birds look at that and think it’s food because it’s shiny.” Ditto for fishing lures, plastic bags and bread bags.

“It’s just a simple matter of the ‘leave no trace’ principle,” Armstrong explained. “Come in, enjoy the wildlife and leave, not letting people know you’ve been there.”

Until that happens, however, volunteers are urgently needed to pick up trash.

Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at

You can help clean up Pymatuning State Park

Volunteers are urged to pre-register for the April 22 cleanup of Pymatuning State Park by April 20. Contact Linda Armstrong, the park’s environmental education specialist, at (724) 932-3104 or; or Freda Tarbell at the Meadville DEP office, 332-6816 or

Weather permitting, volunteers with boats will also be needed to pick up trash along the shores of the islands in the lower reservoir. Contact Armstrong to pre-register.

More information: Visit

Coming Thursday

The timing of this summer’s $2.7-million makeover of the concession area on Pymatuning State Park’s Linesville Spillway should be set no later than June.

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