This past week I had the honor of working with Park Ranger Emily Prigot from New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, she is also the volunteer coordinator at that park. Emily used to work for Boston National Historical Park, when I was tasked with finding a presenter for the workshop Emily was recommended right away. Many of our permanent Park Rangers and longtime volunteers have known Emily since she was a ranger here at Boston NHP, she was the perfect candidate and had all the energy a presenter could need for an 8am workshop.
The objective of the workshop was to answer some of the questions that many Park Rangers have asked either my supervisor or me about working with volunteers, what volunteers are actually able to do within our park, and how much direction the Park Rangers can give volunteers at the Visitor Center desks.
We had two workshops, both 8am – 10am, in order to allow for as many Interpretation Park Rangers as possible to attend a session. Longtime volunteers were invited to be references and representatives of Visitor Services Assistant volunteers. While the first workshop did not go as smoothly as the second one, due to some negativity and Rangers wanting to feel more anonymous in expressing their concerns or questions, both were successful in answering some of the questions Park Rangers proposed and giving me new ideas on how to improve the VIP program in Boston NHP.
To combat the problems that arose in the first workshop, in the second session we used a box and scraps of paper to let Park Rangers be more anonymous in expressing their concerns, questions, or problems that they have when working with volunteers and about the VIP program. This was a suggestion made by Park Rangers in the first session.
Many of the questions concerned how volunteers were recruited, trained, and assigned to certain tasks. A lot of rangers had not seen the position description for the Visitor Services Assistant volunteers and that seemed to answer a lot of their questions as well. Some concerns were more specific to situations they had been in with volunteers and what the volunteers are allowed to do at a visitor center desk specifically.
The main takeaway from the workshop was that there needed to be more communication and unification between volunteers and Park Rangers, like who is out sick or when a volunteer’s schedule changes that week. My job is going to be working out these bugs in the VIP program at Boston National Historical Park and make the VIP program more collaborative with the Interpretation Ranger schedule. The Park Rangers also learned a lot about how to deal with certain conflict situations, when to delegate tasks to volunteers (and what a volunteer is able to do and comfortable doing), and why a volunteer should be appreciated.
A big thank you to Ranger Emily Prigot for planning and executing the “Working with Volunteers” workshop. Thanks to New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park for allowing Emily to work with us for a couple days. Also thank you to the park rangers and volunteers who participated in and came in early for the two workshops!