catoctin mountain park ranger debra mills wins 2015 regional freeman tilden award

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Date: December 7, 2015
Contact: Debra Mills, 301-663-9388

Debra Mills, Park Ranger at Catoctin Mountain Park received the National Capital Region's Freeman Tilden Award for Interpretive Excellence at the National Association for Interpretation Annual Conference in Virginia Beach, VA. Named after Freeman Tilden, whose writings and teaching improved the quality of National Park Service programs and services based on visitor needs, the Freeman Tilden Award is the highest award presented to an individual National Park Service (NPS) interpreter.

While interpretation and front-line service have always been a major component of her duties, Ranger Mills has served in a variety of capacities during her 37 years at Catoctin Mountain Park. Ms. Mills organized the park's first volunteer trail maintenance crew and started the recreational handicapped riding program at Camp Greentop while serving as the park's Horse Program Manager.She was instrumental in the founding of the Catoctin Mountain Park Employee Association and held several offices in the organization, including multiple terms as president.She is a member of the National Capital Region (NCR) Diversity Action Team, and is the park's Education Coordinator and liaison to the park's cooperating association, Eastern National. As Catoctin Volunteer Coordinator, Ms. Mills managed 1400 volunteers who contributed22, 457 hours in support of Catoctin Mountain Park in FY2015.

Ranger Mills received the Tilden Award in recognition of the Watershed Field Trip, designed to accommodate up to 120 students with minimal park staff.During this field trip, Students hike through history on the Brown's Farm Trail, meeting 19th century residents, albeit role players, who lived and farmed in the wetlands and mature forest of the Owens Creek Area. They learn why our predecessors chose to live in this area, how they obtained and used the water, and how they unknowing contributed to degradation of the water quality locally and throughout the watershed.While walking the same trail, the students meet the scientist who explains the science of wetlands in a natural wetland area and the park advocate who waits in the mature forest, ready to share the links between parks and personal well being. A mock town hall meeting held, at the conclusion of the hike, allows students to listen to the positions of the present day versions of the developer, farmer, scientist and park advocate vying for development rights to the area, then ask questions to determine how zoning can include multiple uses without negatively impacting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Students map the area to show their vision of potential uses, then write supporting essays explaining their reasoning in a post-visit activity back at school. Catoctin Mountain Park volunteers role play the characters in the field and at the Town Hall Meeting and are vital to the success of this program.

Catoctin Mountain Park is one of 409 units administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. The park Visitor Center, located on State Route 77 three miles west of Thurmont, Maryland, is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Correspondence should be addressed to: Superintendent, Catoctin Mountain Park, 6602 Foxville Road, Thurmont, MD 21788. Our website address is information can be obtained by calling the Visitor Center at (301) 663-9388.

Last updated: December 7, 2015

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6602 Foxville Road
Thurmont, MD 21788


(301) 663-9388

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