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:  to nominate someone.

For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

(Reprinted from the January 22 DCNR Resource newsletter.  Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)


See What You Missed Last Week: 350+ PA Environment & Energy NewsClips

Related Articles - Recreation & Land Conservation:

Op-Ed: Why We Support A Free State Park & Forest System - PA Parks & Forests Foundation

Analysis: 2020 Is A Make Or Break Year For Environmental Funding - It’s Our Turn Now!

DCNR Now Accepting Applications For Parks, Recreation, Land Conservation, Stream Buffer Grants

CFA Starts Accepting Applications Feb. 1 For Act 13 Watershed Restoration, Mine Reclamation, Sewage, Flood Mitigation, Recreation Grants

PA American Water Now Accepting Applications For 2020 Environmental Grants

DCNR Seeking Comments On Draft ATV Trail Policy

Depts. Of Health/Education Student Art Competition - Don’t Let A Tick Make You Sick - To Raise Awareness About Ticks, Lyme Disease

Entries Now Being Accepted To State Parks & Forests Thru The Seasons Photo Contest

More Than 7,800 Birds Fledged Through DCNR’s Cavity Nesting Trails Program

Jan. 22 Resource Newsletter Now Available From DCNR

Jan. 24 Take Five Fridays With Pam Now Available From PA Parks & Forests Foundation

The Nature Conservancy-PA Reviews 2019 Accomplishments With Its Many Partners, Volunteers

Wildlands Conservancy Highlights Upcoming Programs In February

Wildlife For Everyone 3rd Annual Wildlife Gala April 3 In State College

Intern Wanted: Brandywine Conservancy Easement Stewardship Internship

[Posted: January 22, 2020]


Go To Preceding Article     Go To Next Article

Return to This PA Environment Digest's Main Page