Working for the State Parks in Virginia is really like a dream come true for me. On a daily basis I am surrounded by the very best of Commonwealth’s natural beauty and wonderful visitors from all around the world.
Even so, sometimes I am still amazed at how parks seem to bring out the very best in people. I am currently working with a group of young college students who are planning a unique vacation. These students attend Rice University in Houston, Texas. Their leader Zeno is a Biochemistry and Cell Biology major set to graduate next year. He initially contacted me back in October 2008 about planning an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to one of the state parks in Virginia. These students are planning to travel to Virginia during their spring break to stay and work in one of our parks. We discussed the options and in the end they decided on Mason Neck State Park in Lorton, Virginia.
I am amazed that these students who have such hectic and demanding schedules would use their one week break to work in our state parks. Over 200 students applied for the 100 ASB positions that were available at various locations. Our team at Mason Neck will consist of 12 students and an accompanying staff member. They are set to arrive on February 28th. The park staff is already gearing up for their arrival. One of the projects they will work on is building a bypass trail around an area on the trail that has become a sensitive habitat. Recently a new Bald Eagle’s nest was discovered and they may also help with its protection. In addition to planning projects for the crew the staff is also planning some fun activities for after hours. Since Mason Neck is located on the beautiful Belmont Bay the staff have planned for them to take kayaking trips, participate in some of the very best of Virginia’s bird watching programs and experience Virginia hiking trails that pass through areas that Captain John Smith explored over 400 years ago.
It’s a win-win situation for the park and the students. The students will gain experience and know that their efforts have contributed to improving and protecting our natural environment. The park will benefit from their labor and from the conservation ethic and stewardship instilled in these young students, our future leaders.
We can’t wait for them to get here and I’ll keep you updated on the experience.
If you are a student or know other students that would like to participate in Alternative Spring Break state park vacations please contact the Virginia State Park Director of Volunteer Services, Gaston Rouse at [email protected] or visit our volunteer web page.
See you in the park!