Flourishing at Florissant: Park Visit

Being at a regional office, we often work with parks but aren’t always at parks. Lucky for us, the intern squad got to visit a park this week. (We have named ourselves the “Intern Squad” since we have two LHIP interns and one SCA intern.) Connecting through Offices of Interpretation & Education, we were able to organize a visit to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument located about two hours from our office. The three of us checked out a government vehicle and made the road trip out to Florissant, Colorado. IMG_4722 IMG_4724 I wasn’t sure what to expect at the park. My experience with the Park Service growing up is very much limited to monuments. To our discovery, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is small park but with various small surprises and a neat history. We were greeted by Ranger Jeff Wolin, the Lead Interpreter at Florissant, who kindly shared with us the history of founding Florissant, multiple outreach programs they host for all types of visitors, and some of the challenges they face with this specific site. After browsing through the visitor center, we joined in on a ranger led hike. The walk led by Ranger Jeff Granger was very insightful to understand the conditions, history, and assortment of fossils found throughout the park. Most interesting to me were the large tree stumps that were hundreds of years old and still here. Can you believe that Redwood trees were once found here in Colorado? It’s such a crazy thought! The large valley in the middle of the park was once a lake and caused for many insects and small plants to be fossilized.   IMG_4710 One of the comments Ranger Jeff made really stuck with me. He was explaining the breadth of programs they offer for all ages, ethnicities, gender, cultures and types of people. He mentioned how because the history of this site is so far back in time, it can relate to anyone no matter what age or race –it is relevant to everyone because it is our earth. I really appreciated that. As a Latina with much of my family feeling uncomfortable or unfamiliar with national parks, I find it vastly important for people like us to feel welcomed at a park –like they belong and matter. The relevancy of the park to them is very important and when programs are created for specifically children or specifically Spanish speaking folks, it increases the relevancy factor. IMG_4726 Even so, Ranger Jeff also explained how some of the challenges they face at Florissant is meeting the expectations of visitors. Because of the association with “fossils,” visitors expect to see something like dinosaur bones, but that is not what is found here. Although dinosaur fossils would be really cool, Florissant has plenty of smaller discoveries that are more hands on and filled with historical and political content. Because Florissant is uniquely surrounded my private residencies, they have also increased their efforts on other outreach approaches such as Night Sky Programs, or letting women groups come for their weekly run on the trails. These unique approaches that parks allow was really great to hear and learn about. Before leaving, we talked to the Mile High Youth Corps who was working on a small project at the park. All in all, it was a great visit to a park that none of us had visited before. We’re hoping to take a trip to another larger park in the near future to explore more of the on-site functions and programs. From Colorado, Isabel     IMG_4716IMG_4730

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