Friday, December 14, 2018
DEQ Secretary Recognizes NC State Park Ranger for Earning Environmental Education Certification
DEQ Secretary Michael Regan recently joined NC State Parks Director Dwayne Patterson at William B. Umstead State Park to recognize Billy Drakeford for completing DEQ’s Environmental Education Certification. Park Superintendent Scott Letchworth and staff from state parks, and the DEQ Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs joined Drakeford for a brief interpretive hike about the cultural history and ecology of the park.
Drakeford worked as a park ranger at Mount Mitchell before coming to Umstead, and even though he considers himself an experienced ranger, he says he gained a wealth of resources from the certification. He particularly noted a workshop at Montreat College as part of the program. “The big thing I was impressed about was the young students at Montreat College and their passion for environmental education. Put a little spark back into me when it comes to environmental issues,” said Drakeford.
As the group hiked down to the lake, a bald eagle flew overhead almost on cue and a family with young children was heard saying they had never seen a bald eagle before. Secretary Regan took the chance encounter as an opportunity to thank state parks for the value they place on education and for supporting rangers’ participation in such an intense professional development program. “The fact that you have completed this program speaks volumes to your commitment to teaching children and adults about the rich history and natural heritage at Umstead and in North Carolina,” said Regan.
As part of his certification, Drakeford conducted a community partnership project in the park partnering with North Carolina Homeschool Adventures, a group that plans field trips for the N.C. homeschool community. Drakeford worked with group members to revitalize a nature trail in Umstead Park, which included researching, redesigning and installing new signage.
“Inspiration Trail” is a short interpretive trail near the park’s Reedy Creek entrance with signs providing ecological and historical information about the area. After going on field trips to the park, the North Carolina Homeschool Adventures group made Drakeford aware of the outdated nature of the signs on Inspiration Trail. Drakeford recognized the need for new signs with updated interpretive information, and he set to work on researching appropriate educational material. As part of his mission to bring in appropriate educational material, Drakeford redesigned new signs and supervised the replacement of these new signs.
Now visitors to the Inspiration Trail can benefit from Drakeford’s project. “The homeschoolers and community now have a nature trail that is legible and contains a lot of great historical and ecological facts.”
Drakeford noted that not only does the certification program provide exciting professional development opportunities for “seasoned” rangers, but it also gives new rangers the opportunity to “get their feet wet” by exploring a variety of environmental education resources, workshops, and environmental education centers.