News Release Date: January 20, 2016
Though most of the country was concentrating on Clemson and Alabama during the College National Championship game, Jan. 11, more than a dozen National Park Service rangers, volunteers and interns from throughout Arizona showed they too could form a formidable team.
The NPS team reached out to more than 3,500 visitors during the College Football Fan Central event held in Downtown Phoenix, Jan. 8 through 10. To raise awareness about the NPS Centennial and encourage visitors to find their park, rangers and volunteers came from as far away as Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, on the Arizona/Mexico border roughly 120 miles from the event. This effort was led by the Southern Arizona Office Centennial Event Coordinator Sharlot Hart and Nina Fader, a centennial planner and intern with the Student Conservation Association at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
"People who like sports have the same priorities and interests as those who care about parks," Fader said. "Yet, not as many people visit parks as religiously [as they] watch football on Sunday. It is about exposure. I wanted to show people everything about our parks while they were already at something they [were] passionate about."
The rangers and volunteers who participated in the event had different reasons for giving up their weekend to join the festivities; however, a few common themes were shared by all -- the opportunity to build comradery and educate the future generations of rangers, volunteers and park stewards.
Ed and Carolyn Segrist said they had two reasons to volunteer: to reconnect with Charlie Kolb, a ranger at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, who they worked with at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in 2009, and they wanted to interact with families, especially those with 4th graders. The volunteers at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument said they were surprised by how many families were not aware of the new 4th grade pass.
"It's important for NPS to interact with the community because the national parks have so much to offer," Carolyn said. "I think many people still think that national parks are all like Yellowstone and Yosemite. They think that most national parks are for hiking, camping and other outdoor sports, so we need to educate the general public that our national parks are so much more!"
Though the booth was staffed by NPS personnel, the event volunteers made a concerted effort to also talk to visitors about Arizona State Parks and their neighborhood parks. Volunteers encouraged visitors to "Find Your Park," which isn't exclusive to the NPS system. The Arizona Office of Tourism, recognizing the importance of the NPS Centennial and Every Kid in the Park initiative, provided the NPS a booth in their Arizona Grand Tour tent during the event, proving once again that team work is the best way to accomplish a mission.
"People are aware of the parks generally, but many had no idea how many were in their own back yard," said Chris Irey, a volunteer at Casa Grande. "It's [important] to promote Every Kid in a Park, the Centennial events and to remind [people] of the value of the [park] passes."
Park and monument staffs throughout Arizona are beginning to take a more proactive attitude toward community engagement. The NPS Centennial has provided a renewed effort toward educating future generations about "America's Best Idea." To remain relevant for the next one hundred years, parks and monuments throughout Arizona are looking toward the future by providing new exhibits, activities and integrating social media and new technologies to interact with and educate people.