Tom Hindman

Tom Hindman, outdoor enthusiast and local author, talks with NatureWorks attendees during last year’s event at Bottle Works in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

Bottle Works and Penguin Court, a Preserve of Brandywine Conservancy, will present NatureWorks Environmental Expo virtually from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 6.

Presentations will be live-streamed on the Bottle Work’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bottleworksethnicartscenter.

For each presentation, attendees will be able to ask questions through the Facebook chat.

For the past four years, Bottle Works has welcomed more than 25 conservation-themed groups and agencies, showcasing all there is to do in Cambria County and surrounding areas.

But due to the pandemic and mitigation efforts, organizers decided to transform the event into a virtual offering.

“The pandemic has forced a lot of organizations to reimagine their in-person activities,” said Melody Tisinger, Bottle Works’ director of advancement and operations. 

“Thanks to our sponsors, the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies and REI Co-Op, we will be able to continue to teach families about the abundant natural resources in our region and promote outdoor play, appreciation and conservation concepts to all who tune in.”

Presenters and topics include:

• Mountain Laurel Trout Unlimited representatives will talk about coldwater conservation and macroinvertebrates, small aquatic insects in various stages of development.

The group will also demonstrate fly-tying, using feathers and fur attached to a hook to look like stream bugs.

• Allegheny Plateau Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation members will demonstrate how to call turkeys and teach regional conservation efforts and everything there is to know about turkeys.

• Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officials will teach viewers about fish characteristics and adaptations using fish models.

• Cambria County Conservation District representatives will share information on vernal pools – seasonal wetlands – and springs.

In addition, the group will show viewers live specimens and discuss amphibian migration.

• Stonycreek Conemaugh River Improvement Project (SCRIP) members will lead a guided activity on the properties of water.

Additional educational videos will be presented by Allegheny Ridge Corp., Benscreek Canoe Club, Penguin Court, Friends of the Incline, Penn State Master Gardeners of Cambria County and REI Co-Op.

Melissa Reckner, Penguin Court program manager and NatureWorks co-chairwoman, said more people are seeking refuge and renewal in the outdoors, and the hope is the presentations will help viewers appreciate and understand the world around them.

“It’s in March and people are done with winter and starting to think about spring, so we wanted to have these nonprofit organizations come together and share with the public the many opportunities there are locally to get outside and enjoy our natural resources,” she said.

“Some are outdoor recreational groups to promote river recreation or all the trails we have in the region while many others are promoting conservation of our natural resources or just doing education.”

Reckner said the topics cover areas that will be of interest to everyone.

“If you’re not a super adventurous person, there will be some passive activities that will be highlighted and topics that apply to everyone, such as water quality,” she said.

Reckner said with more people finding respite in nature because of the pandemic, the event is even more relevant.

“We thought this was a critical time to bring these topics to the forefront,” she said.

“Going virtual is a new venture for us, but we wanted to keep that first Saturday of March as NatureWorks Saturday to get people thinking about being outside.”

Along with the event, the Art Works’ main gallery will showcase “All Creatures Great and Small,” an exhibition by nature artist Kim Williams, featuring 65 individual pieces in various mediums.

The public can view the show in-person during Bottle Works’ operation hours or online at www.bottleworks.org.

Williams, a Johnstown resident, is the owner of  65 Inspired Art, which features nature-themed artwork.

Her works have been showcased in various exhibitions at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona and Bottle Works.

She is a graduate of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Williams’ artwork will be on display and available for purchase from March 6 through April 24. 

For those unable to watch the NatureWorks Environmental Expo live, each 20- to 40-minute presentation will be recorded and available on Bottle Works’ YouTube channel. 

“If someone can’t sit in front of their computer for five hours, they can tune in to the ones that are of specific interest to them,” Reckner said. 

She said the goal of the event is to foster a strong environmental ethic in people.

“More and more people are going outside and reconnecting with some local trails or rediscovering some of the opportunities that are here in the Laurel Highlands, so we just want to highlight that and really encourage people to make use of their local resources,” Reckner said.

“With the mountain bike trails on the Inclined Plane hillside, you don’t need to go to Utah or Colorado for some really thrilling opportunities for mountain biking. We want to refocus people’s attention on local opportunities as well as smart use of our resources.”

No registration is required to view the free event.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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