Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Riverbend Park Needs Our Support

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Riverbend Park Needs Our Support

I am writing to support the filling of the position of Senior Interpreter at Riverbend Park. This position is currently unstaffed, and it has come to my attention that there are no definite plans as of yet to staff this position.

The Senior Interpreter is responsible for planning and programming for summer camps, school field trips, and Scouting programs. I write as a mother, an educator, and as a Scout mom. My children, and many others in Fairfax County, have all benefited from the valuable programs at Riverbend Park. It’s essential that this position remain staffed by a full time employee who understands the resources of Riverbend Park and the needs of our community and county. My children attended numerous camps at Riverbend for many years. Primitive Teachings and Fishing camps were essential to their upbringing. Additionally, my children volunteered at the park, caring for the park animals under Rita Peralta’s tutelage. My son had at least five fishing birthday parties there, which were staffed by employees of Riverbend. This investment in their early environmental education has paid off, as I now have two teenagers deeply committed to the environment of the world and the future of Riverbend Park. The Senior Interpreter is essential in planning and programming for the summer camps and programs.

Riverbend Park is known among Fairfax County teachers as the gold standard for field trips. I am in my 27th year as an educator in FCPS, and my colleagues always return from field trips at Riverbend with glowing reviews. They all return with descriptions of the value of the programs and the staff who lead them. The Senior Interpreter is essential in understanding the FCPS curriculum and gearing visits towards our studies. A seasonal employee (headquarters’ answer to not staffing this position) will have no knowledge of our curriculum and will not have experience of previous visits in order to grow the experiences.

The Riverbend Scouting program is unparalleled and essential to Scouts in the Great Falls community and to our entire county. My son is a member of Great Falls Scout Troop 673, and my daughter is a member of Great Falls Girl Scout Troop 2784. Riverbend has provided numerous and exceptional programs for these scouts to earn merit badges and take part in Scouting experiences at the park.

Additionally, many of the Boy Scouts in Great Falls Troop 673 have completed their Eagle projects at the park. My son did his at Riverbend, as he was so devoted to this dear park. Will our Scouts be as invested in this park if the programs that support them are eliminated due to a lack of staffing? I think not. We need the position of Senior Interpreter to be fully staffed in order to maintain these valuable Scouting programs at Riverbend Park.

Finally, Riverbend Park has more Native American historical significance than any other park in the D.C. area. The Senior Interpreter plays a valuable part in the planning of the annual Riverbend Indian Festival.

The community and world need children educated in preservation and protection of our natural world, and Riverbend has successfully been doing this through the programs and hard work of the Senior Interpreter. Please do us a service and fully staff this position.

Karen Hershey

Great Falls