Fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Hi, everyone! I’m Kassidy, EFTA’s writing intern here in Boulder, Colorado. I have been doing some rounds of site visits for our blogs and recently visited Alejandro, LHIP’s interpretation intern at Rocky Mountain National Park. Continue reading to share my experience meeting Alejandro and to follow up on the work he’s been doing with RMNP visitors!

On this warm summer day, I am meeting with Alejandro Ramos, Latino Heritage Internship Program’s (LHIP) Direct Hire Authority (DHA) interpretation intern, in Estes, Park Colorado. Having already completed an LHIP internship last summer, Alejandro couldn’t resist the opportunity to be back in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Last summer, Alejandro enjoyed educating kids on the surrounding environment and wildlife. His interpretation internship this summer allows him to continue doing just that. This afternoon, I am accompanying Alejandro on one of his informal presentations in the park where he will teach kids how to fish with play-toys and educate the visitors on fishing regulations in the park.

As Alejandro arrives at our meeting spot, he greets me with a big smile and I instantly notice a calming charisma about him. He welcomes me with many questions about myself, and then begins to passionately tell me about the interpretation program he’s doing with LHIP. The focus of the program is to provide the public, and specifically, Latino visitors, with information on fishing and wildlife. In addition to presentations in RMNP, Alejandro is also responsible for creating helpful handouts for the visitor centers in order to provide easy access for Latino communities into the park’s programs.

After our initial meeting, we drive to the National Park Services (NPS) Center where Alejandro can grab all of the resources he needs for the presentation. In the basement of the main office, Alejandro goes through boxes and collects handbooks, stickers, toy fish and all of the other necessary items. As he stores the junior ranger handbooks in his car, he says that the junior ranger program is truly making a positive impact on the community. The junior ranger program allows kids to learn about the RMNP environment and wildlife through fun activities and receive a badge when they finish. “It’s like planting seeds – maybe not all of them will sprout but it’s making a difference,” Alejandro says.

Once Alejandro has everything he needs, we drive to a nearby creek where he can set up his presentation. He continues to tell me about his love for the park’s interpretation programs as a way to get more people involved with the surrounding environment. Alejandro tells me that his favorite part of the interpretation program is when he’s doing a presentation and sees a group of Latino kids walking up. He says, “there are very few [Latino kids] but when they come I can talk to them in Spanish and really connect with them because of their backgrounds.”

Alejandro hopes he can encourage these kids to be further connected with nature in these programs. His own love for nature has been instilled in him since he was little. His dad took him fishing and hunting often, and he grew up on a farm with many pets. But it wasn’t until he got his own truck at 16-years-old, that he began to cultivate a deeper respect for his surrounding environment. Once Alejandro got his own truck, he was able to thoroughly explore his home state, California and search for remote areas where he could observe nature without distraction. “Nature is not artificial therapy. No matter what’s going on in your life, when you connect with nature your problems are much smaller,” he says. Now, Alejandro feels that it is important for other kids to connect to nature in the same way.

After Alejandro sets up his presentation on a park bench, he immediately starts inviting people over to talk about fishing in the park. At first, adults come by with fishing questions, to which Alejandro has all of the answers – along with fish identification cards or fishing regulation pamphlets to support his case. Eventually, families trickle in, and Alejandro has all of the kids try fishing. Each kid eagerly takes a fishing line and begins fishing out of the plastic bin at their feet. It doesn’t take long for the frayed string on the fishing line to cling to a metal hook placed in each of the toy fish. As the kids bring up fish, Alejandro holds a net to secure its landing. After celebrating the catch, Alejandro turns over the fish and has the little fishermen read the attached label. Depending on the species name, he tells them if they would be allowed to keep the fish or if they would have to release it back into the water. After explaining the fishing regulations and the concept of catch and release to the kids, he demonstrates how to safely return the fish into the water (or the plastic bin, in this case) because these toy fish “aren’t edible.”

Following the presentations, Alejandro and I pack up everything and do a quick walk up the creek – so I can see the view and so Alejandro can pass stickers out to the families along the path. Then we head back to the car, and Alejandro says we are going to make sure the dumpsters are closed properly so bears are not lured to campgrounds.

Then as we head back to the visitor center, Alejandro proceeds to tell me how passionate he is about the work he is doing with LHIP. He’s learned so much from last summer and continues to expand upon his knowledge each day. “I’ve really learned how important it is to work as a team. We all come from different places and backgrounds but we’re doing the same job and having fun doing it,” Alejandro tells me. After this summer’s internship and returning home, he hopes to get a job with the California Fish and Game Commission. Although he previously wanted to go into law enforcement, he has been inspired by what he’s learning in his internship and is considering someday “going the NPS” route. But whatever he ends up doing, there is no doubt he will be making a positive impact on youth and his surrounding environment.

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