FIrst week at NPS Rock Creek – Ana Karen Sánchez

As a long time D.C. resident, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of my community. I’ve had the opportunity to map the city and resource accessibility, study urban housing, and most recently I have studied the history of Black land loss in the District as well as environmental justice awareness in the city. Yet, I am always amazed at how much more there is still to learn! Working as an LHIP intern at my local National Park, Rock Creek Park, I have the privilege of delving deeper into the park’s history, our partners, programs, and outreach.

Rock Creek Park is the nation’s third established National Park and first urban park. It is often referred to as an “oasis in the city” and that it is! I have visited the park myself on many occasions prior to my internship whether it be as a gathering place for family and friends or even to enjoy some exercise amidst the lush greenery and much needed shade from D.C.’s famously hot and humid summers. These experiences are very common for many park visitors but I am no longer just a park visitor, I am a park intern! 

Just after my first week at the park, I have realized that there is so much of the park I have never seen before and look forward to discovering. One important topic on the agenda is also to educate park visitors, and myself, on how to become park stewards. That is, a person who cares and looks after the park. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to become a park employee or volunteer; although I highly recommend checking out the various engagement opportunities the park offers. Instead, we can become park stewards by learning and abiding by the park compendium that keeps the park and people safe. Some of these regulations include; no balloons, not hanging things on trees, and picking up after your dog. Learning the reasonings behind these regulations has been incredibly valuable in providing a holistic approach to park visitor engagement. Did you know that hanging/tying objects to trees such as hammocks or balloons actually can both cut off circulation within the tree and also cut/scar the tree leaving it susceptible to infections.  

Everything in the park is connected within this great eco-system and our actions matter! Make sure to be aware and educate your social circle on the importance of caring for our parks. Guided by the NPS Arrowhead, we are the voices of; vegetation, wildlife, scenic, recreational, historical, and archeological values. 

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