Edith Tatum has covered more miles at Eno River State Park than most rangers, most of them at a quiet, deliberate pace looking for a few friends.
Tatum is a veteran birder and perhaps the longest-serving volunteer for the state parks system, leading birding walks on Saturday mornings for more than 22 years. She began with Ranger Scott Hartley in the early 1990s, and continued when Hartley left the park as asked her to take on the job. (Hartley retired last year as superintendent at Weymouth Woods.)
“I’ve enjoyed meeting a lot of people and some have turned out to be my friends, people that come again and again and we share a common interest,” said Tatum, who has introduced hundreds of visitors to a new way of enjoying the outdoors and state parks.
There are good days and bad days for spotting birds, she said. “I tell people it’s a treasure hunt. Sometimes you find treasure, sometimes you don’t. When the birds are slow, I’ve learned a lot about the trees and plants and can talk about that. I can learn to tap dance with the best of them.”
Just can’t get enough of being in a state park? Consider volunteering. State parks across North Carolina are actively seeking volunteers to help protect the natural resources, develop new amenities and serve an expected 14 million visitors this year.
At all 40 state parks and state recreation areas, volunteers such as Tatum serve in many capacities including campground hosts, visitor center aids, trail workers and special events coordinators, and they provide manpower for specials projects involving tree planting, habitat improvement, inventory of rare species and environmental education.
And volunteers make a significant difference. At Elk Knob State Park, volunteers working on Saturdays built the new park’s signature trail to the summit (and, have begun work on a second trail). At William B. Umstead State Park, they renovated and repainted historic CCC-built summer camps. Endangered sea turtles sometimes owe their very existence to volunteers who help monitor and protect nests and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.
“Throughout our 98-year history, citizen volunteers have been critical partners of our state parks,” said Carol Tingley, acting state parks director. “Together, state parks and their volunteers demonstrate strong stewardship and build stronger communities with a conservation ethic.”
If you’re intrigued about volunteering, contact a nearby park directly. You’ll find contact information for each park on our Website. Or contact the division’s volunteer coordinator at 919-707-9346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.