Temperatures are beginning to drop and so are the leaves from the trees. Fall is here and that means getting ready for the colder and slower months in the National Parks of the Nation’s Capital. People certainly still visit and recreate in our parks during the colder months but the numbers dwindle as people are driven inside by the outside temperatures and the family-oriented holidays. This change in seasons means that the work style with which I have become accustomed at George Washington Memorial Parkway will change.

The CVAs of GWMP in front of the future Mobile Visitor Center (a truck), which should be operational after our term is over, next summer.

Every weekend in the summer the Centennial Volunteer Ambassadors (CVAs) staffed a Mobile Visitor Center; a tent, table, and some chairs which we could move around the Park and interact with the visitors who frequent a multitude of our sites. George Washington

A map of GWMP

Memorial Parkway (GWMP) is 27 miles long and includes historical, cultural, and natural resources, which are sprinkled erratically through our park. Our (traditional brick and mortar) Visitor Center is thus quite far from the edge of our park, and so the CVAs brought the visitor center to the visitors. At the Mobile Visitor Center we were able to answer questions and to talk to the public about their frustrations and joys in the park, but most importantly about upcoming volunteer opportunities. Many visitors expressed interest in volunteering in the park in the future, and took brochures and my business card with them. We also always brought trash pickers along so that an enthusiastic or passionate visitor could be an instant volunteer for the park and help keep it clean. This particular tactic was not very successful as most of our visitors already had plans for their time and said they couldn’t afford to pick up trash spontaneously. Even so, the Mobile Visitor Center itself was a success allowing us to interact with an average of 30 visitors per day who otherwise would not have known how many different sites our park encompasses along the Potomac River. (Some people did not even know they were in a National Park!)

A cyclist in the park decided to stop and participate in a community art activity with us at our Mobile Visitor Center

The Mobile Visitor Center, with the changing weather, is set to be packed up in November and placed in temporary storage until Spring comes. Fall and Winter are a time for planning and meetings, for training and idea-building. I, for one, am really looking forward to this time because this is when the creativity can flow, when the big ideas are discussed, and the long-lasting changes planned. This Winter I am going to focus on completing my park’s Volunteers in Parks Needs Assessment, nominating my park’s volunteers for awards (for all their hard work!) and redesigning my park’s volunteer webpage. Watch out for updates on my progress through the winter months and enjoy these last vestiges of warm weather! What will you be doing in your National Parks as the weather gets colder?

Quinn Conlan, Centennial Volunteer Ambassador, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia