DEQ Secretary Michael Regan was in Cumberland County last week and visited Carvers Creek State Park to recognize Jacob Fields for completing the department’s Environmental Education Certification Program. Fields took Regan on a tour of the park’s longleaf pine habitat and the historic Rockefeller house. Like most park rangers, Fields wears many hats. In addition to leading educational programs for school groups and the public, he is also responsible for trail maintenance, law enforcement, prescribed burns, search and rescue and other duties.
When asked about the program experiences that stood out for him, Fields cites the Basic Interpretive Training provided by N.C. State Parks at Singletary Lake and a herpetology training offered through the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Fields says the certification exposed him to a lot of different programs offered by a variety of instructors. “The diversity helped strengthen my knowledge about conservation and why programs such as these are vital to our future,” said Fields.
In addition to recreation and conservation, Carvers Creek State Park has a mission to educate the community and visitors about the importance of the longleaf pine ecosystem that once was prevalent in the sandhills region. Fields incorporated this educational focus into his community partnership project that is required for the certification program.
For his project, Fields led a wiregrass conservation effort which involved transplanting native wiregrass on a park road that was scheduled to be widened. He worked with Boy Scouts, volunteers and staff to restore the wiregrass in an area visible to the public near the park office.
“Educators like Jacob are essential for preserving our rich ecological heritage and for educating the public about the significance of our state’s unique ecology such as our longleaf pine ecosystem,” said Secretary Regan. “Our state park rangers manage these important lands while providing important educational opportunities for students and the public.”
By providing a readily accessible area that contains wiregrass and other native plants, it provided Fields the opportunity to teach and lead programs for the public and school groups on the longleaf pine and wiregrass ecosystem. This area is burned on a one to two-year rotation providing a unique opportunity for park staff to educate the public about the importance of prescribed fire and how restoration through fire is possible.
“Many visitors were unaware of this unique habitat that is slowly diminishing in size due to human development and fire suppression,” said Fields “Featuring this restored plot of land allows visitors to better understand the importance of wiregrass and prescribed fire to the longleaf pine ecosystem.”
Fields says the program changed his approach to teaching. “My approach to teaching others has incorporated more of an outline and list of objectives, which is much more organized than the programs that I taught before. At the end of my programs I have begun tying everything to the bigger picture of why we teach. If Mr. Rockefeller had let his land become developed instead of the state park that it is today, then we could not have been able to have this unique experience.”