Are you confused by some of the terminology we use in Virginia State Parks? Print out this handy glossary and you’ll be “in the know!”
Contact Station–sometimes known as “guard shack” or “gate house.” This small building is usually located at the entrance of each Virginia State Park. Contact stations are open seasonally with varied hours and staffed with rangers to assist with park information,campsite assignments, collection of parking fees, and cabin check-in.
Contact Ranger–a trained park staff memberwhoworksinthe contact station assisting customers. While juggling a variety of duties, they work hard to make sure you have a great stay at a Virginia State Park.
Maintenance Ranger–a trained park staff member who is responsible for facilities, housekeeping, and groundskeeping.
Law Enforcement Ranger–a park staff member who is a certified conservation/law enforcement officer.
Visitor Center–this building, often shared space with the park office, can be a combination tourism office, gift shop, museum, and nature center. Serving to orient visitors to all the park has to offer, the park vistor center is a great place to start your stay at the Virginia State Park.
Park Interpreter–not specifically trained in any foreign language, Park Interpreters are trained staff members who work to “interpret” the parks natural, cultural, and historic resources for park visitors through guided programs, crafts, demonstations, and talks. Park Interpreters act as an interface between the park guest and the park’s resources.
Interpretive Programs–part education/part entertainment, interpretive programs, such as guided hikes, fishing demonstrations, or wildlife talks, are all designed to help the park visitors understand and appreciate the park’s resources in the hopes that the visitors will begin to create their own stewardship ethics.
Trailhead–this is a place where a trail, or multiple trails, begin.
Trail Blaze (or Blazing)–trails are color-coded and marked through blazing. Blazing is either done on posts in open meadow trails or on trees in forested trails. Be sure to pick up a trail map and identify the color of the trail you are hiking on—follow the correct color blazes and you’ll get to your destination.
Multi-Use Trail–a trail that allows for multipe types of users on the trail…horses, bikers, and hikers.
Boardwalk–these “wooden bridges” provide walkways along a trail or beach access across dunes. Boardwalks are usually built to protect fragile areas from hikers or to protect hikers from waterways and wildlife.
Bathhouse–campground restrooms/showers loccated in designated camping areas. Please do your part to keep bathhouses clean.
Leave No Trace–a camping/outdoor concept that adheres to a strict “pack in/pack out” policy which means visitors will not leave trash along trails or at their campsites to minize the impact on the natural area.
Standard site–a camp site without water or electrical hook-ups. Most often used by tent campers. May or may not have a designated tent pad area.
Primitive site–in Virginia State Parks, a site without showers and flush toilets.
Tent Pad–a designagated area within a campsite designed for tent set up. Tent pads are usually covered in sand or small gravel for comfort. The fill material of choice is a fine gravel that creates excellent drainage to keep the tent area from becoming muddy.
Electric/Water Site–a campsite with water and/or electrical hook-ups. Most often used by RV’s and Pop-Up trailers.
Hardened Site–Current Virginia State Park design standards call for all sites to have a border with a fill material like gravel. This makes our sites sustainable and prevents damage to the resource caused by overuse. Some of our sites have not yet been brought up to these standards.
As always, we work hard to make sure you have a great time in our parks. If you are stumped by any of our terminology–just ask a ranger to explain a bit more! For 24/7 camping reservations, reserve on line. Or call the Virginia State Parks reservation and information line at 800-933-7275, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.