One of my favorite parts about working on the Agricultural Management Guidelines for Martin Van Buren National Historic Site (MAVA) is that I have had the opportunity to think about the visitor experience and programmatic opportunities at the park. My research topics include crops, irrigation, erosion, and small scale features. While I primarily focus on researching practices like crop rotations and drip irrigation systems for the actual farming operations, I have also been thinking of ways for visitors to engage with these topics. I’m really having fun thinking of programs such as harvest parties and bee keeping workshops, and this has sparked my interest in thinking, what makes a good programmatic opportunity at a national park? How can we recreate the unexpected “aha!” moments that I’ve had while admiring the intricate trails at Acadia? or finally understanding the story at Manzanar? Moreover, how do we get people to care about places and stories that they might otherwise take for granted?
Today, we got to meet the Branching Out Park Based Interns, and it crossed my mind that they are participating in a program that is connecting them to parks. It was interesting to hear about their independent projects and how they relate to their interests and college majors. One intern spoke about working really hard to save a very old tree at Minute Man, and another intern spoke about experimenting with different treatments for Powdery Mildew disease. Similarly, as we have visited the Branching Out Field Team and Acadia Field School Team, I have had an opportunity to observe programs that are giving participants the opportunity to experience parks in very hands-on, fun, and memorable ways.
Thinking of programmatic opportunities is really interesting to me since next year I will have the chance to plan programs for my peers as the Manzanar Ambassador for UC Davis and as a member of the interfaith club I am involved in. My biggest fear, though, is that I won’t be able to pass on my passion for these issues to my peers.
When we visited Pressley Associates, a private landscape architecture firm, Marion Pressley echoed my thoughts when describing the challenges she often faces in convincing clients to implement her design proposals. Marion gave us an inside look into three of her projects, and the one I found most interesting was the Point State Park Master Plan. I thought it was a great design because it honored the remnants of the old military fort but also looked very conducive to programmatic opportunities. One side of the site was dedicated to interpretation and the other side was dedicated to hosting events. From the as built plans and photos that she showed us, it looked like a park that would be really fun to visit! (On a side note, talking to Marion was great because she gave me great advice about grad school!)
Thinking back to programmatic opportunities at Martin Van Buren NHS, I am excited because having active agriculture at the park opens up so many fun possibilities for visitors to learn about the importance of farms today (no farms=no food!). As people become more and more attached to cities, I hope that the programs at Martin Van Buren NHS can help visitors to care about Martin Van Buren and the importance of sustainable agriculture today.