Thursday, May 19, 2011
In the spring of 2003, three very young girls from Indiana visited the park. The family met a ranger who talked to the girls and provided each with a Junior Ranger badge as a souvenir of their visit. The parents did not know any details concerning the Junior Ranger program, but were inspired to learn more.
This first badge led to visits to many other national parks and has instilled in the whole family an “appreciation of our great national parks system.” Emily, Erin and Erika – at the time, respectively, five, three and two years old – earned 30 badges while travelling to California and back that summer. Over the past eight years, each girl has earned 108 Junior Ranger badges, visiting NPS areas in 34 different states. Their parents noted that the preferred visiting national parks to visiting amusement parks.
On April 7th, the family returned to the Castillo de San Marcos, where the girls were excited to finally earn their Junior Ranger badge. Their weeklong trip included visiting Kennesaw Mountain, Ocmulgee, Fort Frederica, Fort Pulaski, Timucuan, Cumberland Island, Fort Matanzas, Jimmy Carter, and Andersonville.
For these girls, a brief encounter with a park ranger and inexpensive plastic badge have led them on an amazing adventure of learning, exploring, and caring for our national park sites. These girls are a reminder that rangers have the ability to affect and inspire the thousands of visitors that come to parks.
Emily, Erin, and Erika, in turn, have inspired rangers at the Castillo to pause and reflect on the important roles we all play as stewards and educators of our country’s greatest assets, our national treasures.