|Wednesday, Apr 11, 2012|
University students have many choices when it comes to how to spend spring break. These eleven students and one staff member from Texas A&M chose to volunteer at Carlsbad Caverns National Park for an “alternative spring break”. The park’s Deputy Chief of Interpretation Justin Woldt coordinated the week’s activities, which included safety training, project work, and opportunities to explore and have fun. The students represented a range of academic disciplines, such as biology, genetics, economics and psychology, yet they were of one mind when it came to hard work. They pulled together, everyone participating, and exceeded the expectations of the park staff.
Most of the week, they performed restoration activities around Carlsbad Caverns National Park. They removed: about 23 ounces of lint from within Carlsbad Cavern (cave conservation), a dumpster load of exotic plants (pulled by hand!), over a dozen old telephone poles and associated hardware long abandoned along an old utility route, and more than twenty bucket loads of old glass, metal, and crockery from a historic dump. They also worked two days at neighboring Guadalupe Mountains National Park, where they removed about a mile of old barbed wire fence.
The students listed among the benefits to them as learning about the parks, spending time with the park rangers, maintenance and resource management staff, and bonding with each other like a family. One student said, “This is the second year I’ve done an alternative spring break. It was well organized, and having a variety of things to do was great!” The typical park employee reaction was, “I’m so impressed! They worked hard, had upbeat attitudes, and were curious, interested, and very enthusiastic.” With both parties declaring that the park’s first alternative spring break went well, it’s no surprise that some of the students and park management are looking forward to doing it again next spring.