Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico seemingly have very little in common. One is an urban park in metro Atlanta focusing on natural resources, the other is a destination island park in Puerto Rico focusing on historic resources. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll find a great collaboration. The two parks are working together to offer a ranger cultural immersion program which allows for shared staffing and development.
Larisa Nachman, an interpretive park ranger from the Chattahoochee River who is working on her Spanish degree will be assisting the staff in the division of interpretation and visitor services at San Juan during its season of highest visitation. Many of the 1.1 million visitors to the site come from January through March, with many of those visitors coming to the island via cruise ships. During this time of high visitation, more staff is needed in the field, providing both enhanced formal and informal interpretive services and reminding folks about how to safely enjoy their visit to the site.
Upon her return back to the Chattahoochee River, Larisa will begin to offer programs in Spanish to the general public and to assist with the translating of specific park materials. The Hispanic community is the fastest-growing in metro Atlanta, so through her experiences at San Juan she will aid the park in targeting this underserved audience. Currently, the park has no bilingual staff or park program offerings in Spanish.
This ranger-share program is a win-win for all: San Juan provides a bilingual "opportunity" for the interpreter and receives assistance during its high visitation season; Chattahoochee gets an interpreter who is able to offer bilingual programs and translate materials at her “home park.” San Juan saves funds by not having to advertise a position nor conduct a background investigation for employment; Chattahoochee saves funds by gaining an employee with a brand new and much needed skill set. The employee benefits by gaining an immersion experience in another culture – a great opportunity for employee development.
This program is a positive approach for parks to handle staffing and development needs as well as addressing the issues of inclusion and diversity through interpretive programming…with a great return for all.