Latino Conservation Week

We had a very successful Latino Conservation Week event this week! The name of the event was “Latino Conservation Celebration Day at Fire Island.” I was very nervous the week before the event. For instance, I had nerves about the weather.

The forecast was predicting thunderstorms and high winds the entire week. This could have really made a dent on how many people would come and how often the ferry would run. I also had nerves about people coming and enjoying the event. It is one thing to get Latinos there, but it is another to get them to enjoy it and want to come back.

However, once I saw people coming in and registering for the event in the morning, most of my worries washed away. It was a bit cloudy in the morning, but it ended up being an excellent beach day by the afternoon.

My main job for the day was “Seaside Story Time and Crafts” or “Cuentos y arte por la playa” at the Dune Station. Crafts included making fish prints and flags. The fish prints taught kids about the different forms of marine life at the beach. The kids really enjoyed painting and learning about what they were fish printing. To celebrate Latino Conservation Week, I thought of using paper flags for kids to color and express their heritage. I then put up the flags in the Dune Station and took pictures of the kids holding their flags. I could tell they were proud and excited to share what they did.

My favorite thing about the event was the level of community I felt. I was glad to be a part of something like this. One of the moments I felt a sense of community was during my program at the Dune Station. The parents were all sitting together and laughing while their kids did crafts with me. I also saw a sense of community when families were coming together to eat the food they brought. They were happily using the barbecue and picnic tables available at the park. And, at this moment, I could see that they were forming a connection between them and Fire Island.

Recently, I have been thinking about whether or not the event helped promote what the National Park Service and LHIP is trying to do. For instance, is this event allowing for more Hispanic communities to become aware and enjoy national parks? I believe our event was definitely a meaningful step towards this goal. However, we can always improve. Maybe instead of just doing one event, Fire Island National Seashore can do a couple throughout the year. These other events don’t have to be so heavily planned or operational. But, a couple of events will foster opportunities for more new and different people to come. On another note, I also believe we could have done more community outreach this year. For instance, we mainly just focused on connections between the local Latina Madres group and a local church. Perhaps next year we can promote our event to local libraries and soccer leagues, as well. A lot can be improved, but I am overall pleased with how the event turned out this year.

After watching this event successfully unfold, it has inspired me to hope for more events like this to happen across the country. Hopefully, events like ours and others will inspire the National Park Service to implement actual divisions dedicated to outreach for minority communities. For instance, at Fire Island it shouldn’t just be Roxana, Kathy, Kelly, and me working on one event per year. I want there to be a branch of people promoting events geared to minority communities. This is not a critique on our own staff. Everyone who was a part of the team did an excellent job and ensured smooth sailing for the day. And, for that, I am extremely grateful. I just hope that nationals parks, like Fire Island, can be more heavily staffed and promote more events geared towards minority communities. If this can be done, more people will know about national parks. Then, more people will enjoy and be caring towards this amazing planet.

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