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Earth Day in Jim Thorpe

Celebrating and protecting the epitome of natural beauty in northeastern Pennsylvania.

It’s got to be tough living in the Northeast if you can’t appreciate seasonal change. The anticipation of foliage when you catch a first earthy whiff of an autumnal breeze, daydreams of Christmas markets and snow showers, and big old sigh of relief when spring is finally upon us. It’s an especially joyful feeling after Punxsatawny Phil sentenced you to an additional 6 weeks of winter.

For Shelli Holland, these tiny nuances of nature are everything. However it’s an equally special time for her right now; between the spring equinox and the hectic summer season at her Race Street gift shop, Horizons (Horizon's Facebook Page). Excuse the silly pun, but one of Holland’s favorite holidays is on the horizon.

“I’m a Taurus, so I’m an earth sign” says Holland, “and I’ve always loved to bike and hike and enjoy the outdoors”.

The Palmerton native actively celebrates Earth Day (April 22) each year. She’s the former organizer of The Jim Thorpe Earth Day Festival. Despite the festival’s termination (Holland cites Covid restrictions, costs for public safety presence, and other infrastructure complications), Holland still hosts an annual cleanup along the downtown sector of the Lehigh River.

“I couldn’t just let the whole thing die. I know people miss the activities and music, but taking care of our earth, and cleaning it up is the most important part of this thing” she says.

All four seasons show their true colors in Pennsylvania, and they’re all particularly flattering on Jim Thorpe. While there’s just one unofficial holiday where we’re asked to acknowledge it, the place Outside Magazine has dubbed “East autumns mecca for mountain biking ” is quite the precious little piece of our earth.

Jim Thorpe is the epitome of natural beauty. Enveloped in panoramic mountain views that inspire awe both snow covered, or rolling in moss it’s impossible to ignore Jim Thorpe's organic allure. It likely goes without saying that the famed foliage alone justifies a weekend worth of hotels, dinners out and listening to the kids moan and groan about the drive to Carbon County from suburbia. While the tourism industry is built on Jim Thorpe’s decorated history and the charm of Victorian architecture, it leans perhaps even more heavily on the jaw dropping landscapes: the backdrop to outdoor activities.

“The earth gives us a draw for people to come here,” Holland said. “It makes it so that we’re able to share and show off what we have here”.

Anyone with a disdain for litter, crippling anxiety about global warming, or a simple desire to spend a couple hours outside can celebrate Earth Day by attending the cleanup. Visitors seeking fresh Poconos air, and a view of the Lehigh River are encouraged to join in. It starts at 8am in Josiah White Park near the train station (1 Susquehanna St, Jim Thorpe). The group will assemble in the gazebo, where Holland will divide the volunteers into two teams. Half of volunteers will be directed to start cleaning along the river near Highland Beverage (140 Susquehanna St, Jim Thorpe), and others near the Jim Thorpe Market (1 River St, Jim Thorpe). The teams will work their way towards one another until the entire 1 mile stretch near the historic district has been covered.

“We pull up old tires, batteries, you name it”, says Holland.

She adds that volunteers are often floored to find between 30 and 60 large garbage bags packed with litter by noon. About 40 people donated their efforts including local boy scout troops. Organizers expect that number to increase this year.

Holland isn’t optimistic about a return of the full Earth Day Festival in the next few years. She is, however, confident that people will still turn out to honor what our Earth provides to Carbon County.

Here’s your reminder that places like Jim Thorpe are part of something bigger. Our ecosystems are all connected, and your efforts aren’t in vain. Channel the beauty of the Lehigh Gorge, and the springtime colors that overtake the mountaintops. Happy Earth Day from Jim Thorpe — no matter where or how you choose to celebrate.


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