In the past five years, state and county parks in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area have seen a huge shift in demographics in their park visitorship from traditional “hikers and bikers” to increased populations of those of Latin American origin or descent.
With these shifts came change in how visitors use public lands and the need to adapt to new user groups. In 2015, the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office (NPS) identified the needs of the 80% Latinx community at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis, Maryland, through a visitor use study conducted by an intern from Hispanic Access Foundation.
To address these needs, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources is working to improve facilities for increased usership at parks and provide programming through the “Es Mi Parque” program. In addition, NPS and Chesapeake Conservancy identified the need for more outreach to the diverse populations visiting Sandy Point as an opportunity to educate about stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay and create a more accessible and inclusive park for Hispanic and Latinx visitors.
In 2019, a collaborative partnership between NPS, Chesapeake Conservancy, Maryland DNR, the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) emerged to fund the creation of two bilingual interpretive outreach assistant positions, based at Sandy Point State Park, to provide translation services and develop programming to better engage the Latinx community. In the years since, the program has expanded to include multiple positions that are based out of several state parks in Maryland.
For more information on our Bilingual Ranger program, please contact Gaby Roffe.
Returning for a third year, the bilingual interpretive outreach program expanded to include 9 Maryland State Parks, including Bill Burton Fishing Pier, Cunningham Falls, Greenbrier, Gunpowder, Janes Island, Patapsco Valley, Point Lookout, Sandy Point and Seneca. To address this expanded list of parks, Chesapeake Conservancy hired 5 bilingual interpretive outreach assistants. This year’s seasonal staff included Jenna Feinauer and Matias Orrego, with Isabel Layton, Daniel Salomón and Julian Segovia all returning from previous years.
Similar to previous years, the staff visited and provided outreach, engagement, translation services and programming to all 9 state parks. In addition to these services, the staff also performed visitor use surveys to understand how Latinx visitors were accessing and using the park’s resources. With the results of these surveys, Maryland DNR would be able to review and use the data from the surveys to further expand the program and provide the necessary resources to state parks to better engage their Latinx visitors.
In addition to their usual duties, the seasonal staff also assisted in several Roving Ranger programs and events. The staff piloted the vehicle and brought it to several “Es Mi Parque” events as well as outreach days at Sandy Point State Park. The seasonal staff also assisted the NPS Chesapeake Bay outreach staff during the City of Annapolis’ July 4th parade and event, marching in a parade with the Roving Ranger and setting up an outreach tent at City Dock.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2nd year of our Bilingual Ranger program was altered to encompass an array of virtual activities. Similar to the previous year, potential staff were sought out through Spanish departments at local colleges, community resource centers and other avenues. Isabel Layton and Julian Segovia were brought on as our 2020 bilingual interpretive outreach staff, with Julian returning for a second term.
Pictured left to right: Carly Sniffen (Interpretive Outreach Assistant), Isabel Layton (Bilingual Interpretive Outreach Assistant), Julian Segovia (Bilingual Interpretive Outreach Assistant), Yazan Hasan (Interpretive Outreach Assistant)
Despite working virtually, the pair continued to provide services for Sandy Point State Park including translation of materials and programs, development of new programs and lesson plans, and creation of written and visual content for Find Your Chesapeake. The two were aided in their work by two interpretive outreach assistants, Yazan Hasan and Carly Sniffen.
2019 was the pilot year for the Bilingual Ranger outreach and engagement program at Sandy Point funded by NPS. In order to meet the community where they were and develop programming that met their needs, we recruited candidates through Spanish departments at local colleges and community resource centers for the Latinx community. Our first two bilingual interpretive outreach assistants hired were Daniel Salomón and Julian Segovia.
Throughout their summer season, the two developed innovative and engaging programs for the Latinx community and helped visitors connect to Sandy Point State Park in new ways. Not only did they provide translation and support for fishing, kayaking, and nature programs, but they also developed creative programs like “Pintando la Bahía”—a painting program on the beach—“Historias en Español” storytime, and “Música Reciclada,” a music program using recycled materials as instruments.
The pair also worked closely with the interpretive outreach assistants who worked with the Chesapeake Roving Ranger. Together, the team attended several “Es Mi Parque” events at several Maryland State Parks. These events provide outreach and programming from a variety of partners at parks frequently visited by the Latinx community.