I am so glad to have participated in this internship with the GGNRA. I have learned so much about the history and ecology of the area and I feel lucky to live near to these free and beautiful parks. My goals for this internship were to: 1) identify different animal and plant species common to the GGNRA, 2) learn how to assess trails for accessibility and maintenance purposes, and 3) improve my communication skills with workers and the public alike.
By doing my internship and these trail assessments, I noticed that I’ve become more insightful and clear in my communication of hiking trail conditions and public comments. As a result, I am a stronger communicator in my other classes and relationships as well. I’ve focused on providing concise information that makes sense and is most important to the goals of the Accessibility and Maintenance departments of NPS. I learned how to be effective in my communication by considering ahead of time the expected conditions for each location. I learned accessibility standards from my initial training and then by association of those standards with conditions on the trail. Now, I can even visualize when a trail gets too steep or narrow to be accessible. Monthly meetings with the head of the maintenance department made me aware of work it takes to upkeep trails and what sorts of features were essential to trail durability, accessibility, and enjoyment. Having recreational trails for people to use is vital to maintaining the ecology of the parks. Trails keep people in the midst of nature, but minimize interferences they have on the environment. The many threatened and endangered animals and plants of the area are sensitive to impacts people have on their environment such as littering and trampling off trails. Trails go a long way toward protecting habitats such as redwood forests, coastal chaparral, estuaries, or beaches, which are home to iconic species of the GGNRA such as Bobcats, San Francisco Garter Snake, Redlegged Frog, and the Snowy Plover.
I would like to continue improving my communication skills with the public by increasing my role in the park as an ambassador for youth programs and beach cleanups. I was able to meet hikers on trails when I was performing this internship, but our interactions usually were limited to the weather and/or an explanation of this internship followed by their agreement and one or two questions by them, ended with a thanks. This was not very satisfying to me because they didn’t always get a full picture of what I was doing and the trail data I collect was not immediately put to use. Despite this disconnect due to the fleeting meetings we had on the trail, now I try to engage the people I meet on the trail by explaining how I get paid and academic credit to visit different locales and collect trail information for GGNRA. People are responsive when they hear about why I am doing this internship more than about what the goals are of Park maintenance and accessibility. I especially try to tell teenagers and kids who already like the parks and may not know about opportunities to help out or get internships.
I have definitely learned from this experience and have been able to meet people and network within the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy and National Parks. I am a stronger communicator, more conscious of park rules and reasons we have them, and perceptive to the various needs of park users. In the summer I will continue my internship full time collecting trail data as well as helping organize youth programs and cleanups at Ocean Beach. I chose to continue working with GGNRA because I love these parks and I want to share them with the people I know and other students who might be interested in internships with the Parks. I also will attend SFSU in the Fall to major in Biology, concentrating on Marine Bio and Limnology, so I’ll be staying local for a few more years and in that time I would like to continue volunteering with GGNRA since it might lead to a career opportunity as a biologist or ecologist.