10 Jul Connecting the Chesapeake Bay with the National Park Service
When people hear of the National Park Service (NPS), most might think of the big names such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Smokies. At least, that’s what I would think of. Before my Fish & Feathers position with the Environment for the Americas, my knowledge of National Park Service operation was limited. Working with the National Park Service Chesapeake Office, I have learned much about NPS’s internal operations beyond what the general public sees.
There’s nothing extraordinary about the office itself. It’s a building with office cubicles. What IS special are the people that work within the office that help develop the Chesapeake Gateways Program, which supports an act passed by Congress in 1998 meant to support the Chesapeake Bay in environmental initiatives. This program partners with different networks across the Chesapeake Bay that align with the goals of the NPS and give them support through grants. Before working here, I was unaware of how much different organizations and agencies support each other.
Wendy O’Sullivan, the superintendent of the NPS Chesapeake Office, has worked to rebrand the program with a five-year strategic plan that focuses on equity and inclusion. Most recently, I assisted in facilitating a “network chat” where I spoke to different site leaders that gained support from the program. Participants shared stories on times and ways they have tried to advance inclusive interpretation. I recall a participant who shared how the funding for historical programs at their site has allowed them to actively engage with the timeline and voices of historical figures. They also shared ways dancing has connected the people attending programs to historical moments, something I had never thought of before.