Good Natured Pennsylvanians: Pia van de Venne, Friends Of Murrysville Parks, Westmoreland County
Pia van de Venne is a founding member and current president of the Friends of Murrysville Parks in Westmoreland County.
The group’s mission is to protect and restore native flora and fauna in the municipal parks of Murrysville for everyone to enjoy.
Pia was born in the Netherlands and moved to the United States in 1966. She has resided in Murrysville since 1976.
In 1999, Pia was appointed by Murrysville as a volunteer coordinator of the Murrysville Parks -- a volunteer position.
After a year, she found that dealing with invasive plants was a daunting task, and so she recruited many volunteers to help remove multiflora rose, garlic mustard, and Japanese knotweed from the park lands.
After a few years, the enthusiasm for volunteer park work diminished rapidly, which encouraged Pia and a couple of her friends to start a more structured group -- Friends of Murrysville Parks -- with the goals of continuing to remove invasive plants and educating the public.
Pia has a special fondness for Duff Park, a natural area with great native vegetation.
Thousands of native wildflowers, including the rare blue-eyed Mary and an old growth forest, reside on the steep slopes of the park.
“As a young girl, I already loved the woods. My father did not know much about vegetation other than trees, and he taught me a lot about them and their importance for wildlife,” Pia says. “My father was also an amateur ornithologist, so the idea of preserving habitat for wildlife was instilled in me from a young age.”
As president of Friends of Murrysville Parks, Pia organizes the volunteer park work, public education, as well as scouting for more park workers and fundraising.
Through her conservation work, Pia has learned a great deal about everything from plant and animal identification, stormwater runoff control, and trail improvement projects.
As a volunteer coordinator, she has worked with people of all ages and is looking for more people to learn about the natural world around them.
Pia also advocates for plant conservation by making presentations to social groups and schools; and writes columns about the parks in the local paper.
“We want to give everybody a chance to be exposed to our work, even if the potential volunteer or interested hiker just likes to learn a little about native plants,” says Pia.
Due to the Friends of Murrysville Parks’ continuous work to keep invasive plants out, there are still the same thousands of native plants in the park as there were 50 years ago.
“By volunteering in the parks with people who know how to do the work and about the different flora and fauna, new volunteers will be able to educate the next generation of interested volunteers,” says Pia.
Know of a good natured Pennsylvanian who is passionate about outdoor recreation and/or conservation that we should feature? Contact DCNR by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate someone.
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[Posted: January 22, 2020]
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