When people think of park rangers, they picture us standing in front of geysers; talking about bears, elk, and bison; maybe standing around a campfire talking to campers.
One thing that I bet does not come to mind is park mail. Even in this day of websites and technology, we get lots of mail. Especially in my office for the Education Program. We get actual paper letters - several a week, usually - from students all over the country, requesting information, maps and pictures of the park to use in school projects.
My former boss was not in the habit of responding to these letters. But Fawn (the current Education Specialist) and I feel that it's important to respond to these kids/students. When I first got here, Fawn suggested a set of park handouts to be sent in response to these requests. She also suggested I find a way to keep track of our mail - in case we had to prove to Anne (former boss) or other park folks just how much mail we get.
So, like with many projects in my life (don't ask!), I created a database in Excel. Since the beginning of December, 2008, we have received and answered nearly 270 letters. Yes, the pile is sitting next to my computer on my desk! I also have 5 letters that I have not yet responded to - 3 of which will be taken care of tomorrow (the other 2 need a bit of work). We've also received many thank-you notes from the kids that sent us their original requests!
If I can say one thing about this set of tasks, it's that this is an important way to get the word out. These kids are our future. Hollywood knows how to market to kids - and gets lots of support from kids, in many ways.
The National Park Service is trying to find ways to reach today's youth - especially those living in urban areas that might not get to visit too many natural parks. When we have 'city kids' visit us through school field trips, they usually leave happier - but more tired! - than when they arrived. The outdoors is good for kids. And for us.
We need to encourage these kids to appreciate this country's natural resources. I'm attempting to do my part, because these kids will be voters in the future and the parks belong to us all.
What can you do?
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