~By Madison Chrisol a PTRM major~
While I had planned to travel all around Georgia visiting state parks for my PRTM Maymester this summer, it turned out that the one in my backyard still had a lot to teach me. James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park is located down a small backroad in Summerville, GA. It is known for its beautiful Marble Mine waterfall, 2 large recreation lakes, and good-old-fashioned Southern hospitality. I have lived ~15 minutes from this park for my entire life and thought that I knew just about everything about it. However, spending 2 months volunteering opened my eyes to exactly what goes on behind the scenes- and behind the front desk- of park management.
James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park is home to many exciting programs. During the summer I was able to help with two. The Friends of the Park are the caretakers of a native garden right outside the park office. This summer they worked on creating a drainage area that diverted extra water out of the garden. Additionally, the Chattooga County Library has partnered with the park in the form of a storybook hike. People of all ages are encouraged to hike a non-strenuous trail and enjoy a different story each month. I helped change the story and spread the word about this awesome program.
During my time there I was able to learn a multitude of different tasks that will help me in my future career. I helped clean cabins and wash linens. I filed papers and took phone calls. I went on trash runs and hikes to gather litter. However, my favorite part was definitely interacting with people, whether that be park staff or guests. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and hike with a couple who were first time visitors and had traveled all over the country! They spoke about their favorite hikes and gave me travel tips. I also enjoyed giving people trail recommendations and using my knowledge of the area to suggest additional recreation opportunities both in and out of the park. Furthermore, I was able to pick up so much by watching the park staff interact with visitors and go about their day-to-day tasks.
I learned a lot about what it takes to be a Georgia State Park employee this summer. You must be resourceful. You never know when a truck tire may go flat or a cabin fridge may break. You must be knowledgeable. We were asked around 50 times a day where the Marble Mine Trail began, but we were also asked to identify snakes based on cell phone pictures, the history of the area, what fish were present (and biting), and so much more. You must be excited to be there. We had so many kids (and adults) come through who thought that a lizard they had seen was the coolest thing ever! By matching their enthusiasm, we are able to grow their interest in wildlife and hopefully encourage them to continue exploring. Overall, you must have a passion for both people and the outdoors.
I am grateful for this summer experience because it reassured me that this is the correct career path for me and made me even more excited to get back to classes. Thank you to all the Georgia State Park and Historic Sites employees who work hard to give everyone a wonderful outdoor experience while also protecting these special places.