A Washington, D.C. Adventure with Buddy Bison
Buddy Bison and I recently traveled to Washington, D.C. for an incredible adventure. We started by meeting with the National Park Trust and Junior Ranger Bryan and his family. Our next stop was to an amazing park that all visitors to Washington, D.C. should visit, Rock Creek Park. While we were there, Bryan and I sat down for a really interesting interview with Superintendent Julia Washburn:
1. What is your name?
2. What is your job in the NPS?
Rock Creek Park Superintendent
3. Rock Creek Park was the third national park and was created in 1890, what makes Rock Creek Park unique?
Rock Creek Park manages 3,000 acres of green space in Washington, D.C. including a 1,700 acre Deciduous Forest in the heart of the city. I like to think of the park as a microcosm of the National Park Service, we have wonderful natural resources as well as numerous cultural sites including Fort Stevens, a Civil War Battlefield.
4. What is your favorite animal in the park?
I love the foxes, but I think I have to pick the coyotes as my favorite because I think it is so unique to have coyotes in the middle of a city!
5. We have heard a lot about deferred maintenance, what challenges does Rock Creek Park face?
Rock Creek Park has $52 million dollars of deferred maintenance needs. Really the infrastructure of the Park Service is in great need of repair and rehabilitation. We are very grateful to have the money now to reconstruct Beach Drive, the most scenic road in the park and an important commuter route for D.C.
6. You were the Associate Director of Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers at the National Park Service, what can you tell us about the future of the Junior Ranger Program?
I think the Junior Ranger program is strong and will continue long into the future. It is a wonderful program for kids and families and very important to the public. I was a Junior Ranger here at Rock Creek Park when I was 7 years old.
7. What were some of your favorite ranger stations before you became Superintendent?
Rock Creek Park is my favorite park and always has been, but I really love Crater Lake as well. I think it is such a beautiful and magical place. I also love the red rocks of Arches and Canyonlands out in Utah.
8. How many years does it take to become a Superintendent?
That all depends. It took me 27 years, but I know some superintendents that only took about 10 years to rise to the park manager level. It just depends on what path your career takes you.
9. What do you hope to accomplish as Superintendent of RCP?
I have four priorities as Superintendent: 1. Stewardship–this park has thrived for 128 years and I want it to be healthy and strong on my watch; 2. Access–all people deserve easy access to this park and should feel welcome here, I want to make sure we have great transportation options to the park, outreach programs, and that we create a welcoming environment here for everyone; 3. Community Engagement–Rock Creek Park is part of the greater Washington, D.C. community and I want to make sure we are good neighbors, are responsive to the public, and actively engaged in the community; 4. Employee Engagement–Everyone who works here deserves to feel great at work and be happy to be a civil servant, I want to make sure that management at the park is responsive to employees and that we create a positive work environment for all.
10. In your opinion, what is the ideal National Park Service? What things could the NPS do to improve?
The easy answer is we need more money to do our job properly. We are not funded as well as we should be in order to take care of these places the way they need to be taken care of. I think the Park Service could do a lot more to support its employees and create a better environment for our employees. For example, if you want to be a superintendent, it should be easy for you to know how to go through the process to become one. People should feel like the park service really supports them and that we are creating a healthy environment for people to work in, a better culture for the organization.
11. What can visitors do help the national parks?
Visitors can do a lot. First of all, people impact the parks and there are things you can do back home to care for the environment. One of the most important things you can do is live a sustainable life and to not impact the environment as much as we have been as a population. By just living your life in a way that you’re recycling, that you’re planting native gardens, pollinator gardens that you’re making sure that you’re taking care of your storm water that runs off your roof and your driveway. How is that storm water managed? All of those things that help you live a sustainable life. That’s a really important thing you can do to help your national parks. You can also volunteer. We really need volunteers, as you know we have a lot of volunteers in the park service. We can’t run the park service without volunteers. You can give money to a friends organization or the National Park Trust or the National Park Foundation. You can be part of an organization that advocates on behalf of the park service. You can join a friends group and come and do volunteer work with the friends group or help out in the community to promote the parks. There are many ways private citizens can help the Park Service.
We had several other really great national park visits including: Ford’s Theatre NHS, Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality NM, the Washington Monument for the Cherry Blossom Festival, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, Frederick
Douglas NHS and then I volunteered at the Ellipse in President’s Park with the National Park Trust and Buddy Bison for the White House Easter Egg Roll.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to volunteer with the National Park Trust and fellow Buddy Bison Ambassador Bry at the White House Easter Egg Roll. It was so great to see the kids’ reactions to Buddy Bison while they were standing in line and it was very nice of Superintendent John Stanwich to take us on to the South Lawn. I hope that because of National Park Trust’s efforts, more kids will be able to experience our national parks.
As I stood in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, I reflected on my own dream, that one day every child will visit our national parks.
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