This year, the C&O Canal hosted 90 middle school students from Identity Inc. at Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center in celebration of Latino Conservation Week. This week was created in 2014 by the Hispanic Access Foundation to provide Latino youth and families with outdoor recreation opportunities near their homes and for Latino communities to demonstrate their commitment to conservation. Sherry Guillen, the Community Volunteer Ambassador for the Park, organized a day of hiking, biking, and learning activities. Guillen wanted kids to realize what resources are available to them and provide them with recreational opportunities that they might not have experienced before. There were many first-time experiences that day, including being in the Park, seeing Great Falls, and riding a bike.
Gail Melson and Eddie Rivas, two park volunteers, led hikes to Great Falls. The main focus was “observing the power of the river”, says Rivas, but he also pointed out some fauna on the hike, especially poison ivy, as he does on every hike he leads to make kids more aware of their surroundings. The bike ride was only a few miles and most kids did not want to stop riding. “Their energy and enthusiasm was definitely contagious to me”, says Guillen, who helped lead the rides.
Cheyenne Seybold, the Trust’s Chesapeake Conservation Trust intern, held a pollinator talk and workshop. Kids learned about common native pollinators in Maryland and why they are important to the ecosystem. They made and decorated mason bee houses out of bamboo straws and toilet paper rolls. These homes will provide a place for bees to reproduce and gather pollen. Seybold wanted to provide a “platform for the kids to learn about some of the great things that happen in their environment and their communities.”
The sentiment that the kids were enjoying themselves and engaged in the activities is echoed by the volunteers and staff that made this event possible. “Our national parks were created for everyone to enjoy and I feel lucky that we were able to come together to share the wonders of the C&O Canal with more people” concludes Guillen.
#LatinoConservationWeek fun fact: 94% of Latinos see public lands, such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas as an “essential part” of the economies in these states. #LCW2019