Here in DC, National Capital Region Centennial Volunteer Ambassadors became involved in a very exciting project with REI, the outdoor retailer. DC is a surprisingly active metropolis with many people interested in recreational opportunities in the surrounding area. In response to this culture, REI for the past few years has been searching for a large venue to open up their 5th flagship store; and in the heart of the nation’s capital! This year they finally found a location in the NOMA neighborhood of East DC, and it is the old Washington Coliseum! This building has a long (and very cool) history, and is a cultural touchstone for local DC-ians; I encourage you to look up more about it. But wait….what does this have to do with the National Park Service and the success of the Centennial Volunteer Ambassador program? Keep reading to find out!
REI is a partner with the National Park Service (NPS) both on a national level, as a centennial sponsor, and on a park level. Their commitment to bring people outside and have them enjoy the great outdoors aligns very well with NPS’s mission to make all of their lands available to the public for recreational enjoyment. But…..this flagship store is located in the heart of DC, how does it encourage people to get out on their public lands? Well curious and insightful reader, that is an excellent question. Within the REI flagship store is a visitor center of sorts, called the Adventure Station. This Station is staffed by both NPS and REI staff who can inform the public about public lands in their area, and how to recreate on them. This is a fantastic opportunity for NPS to reach an audience who may not know about parks in their own backyards but have an interest in being outdoors!
As a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador I have been heavily involved in recruiting volunteers to work this station and I am happy to see that I am reaching the community and drawing in more and more volunteers everyday! People are so enthusiastic for an opportunity where they can share their love of public lands, keep a flexible schedule, and easily commute to their duty station (REI is located immediately next to a metro stop). This opportunity, while separate from my specific park, has greatly increased my skills as a volunteer coordinator because I have advertised the position online and to specific interest groups, interviewed prospective volunteers, sent acceptance and rejection letters, and collaborated on this process with the project leader on the Adventure Station. I am so excited to put these skills back into my park and I am even more excited that young people are interested in this opportunity! Here’s to more successes! What successes have you had with recruiting volunteers or working in a partnership? Comment below.
Quinn Conlan, Centennial Volunteer Ambassador, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Virginia