Have a grand time in state parks on Grandparents Day

Join North Carolina State Parks in celebrating Grandparents Day. We’ll have special programs at each park during the weekend Sept. 9-11 designed to help grandparents and grandchildren enjoy the great outdoors together. Here’s a list of them. Below are three stories how the successful careers of many state parks employees have been inspired and encouraged by grandparents.

Jennifer Fenwick has been an interpretation and education assistant with state parks since February 2015. Part of her role has involved taking kids camping for the first time…

grandparents day 1
12-year-old Jennifer (right) and Papa Bear (center)

“When I was 12 years old, Papa Bear (grandfather) was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. This diagnosis reasonably led him to contemplate his own mortality in a way he never had before. But rather than let it get the best of him, Papa Bear declared that the whole family was going to join him on a week-long backpacking trip in the remote mountains of Colorado’s Gunnison National Forest. It was on this trip that I became captivated by the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains and enthralled by the possibility of suddenly spotting wildlife such as moose, bears, and elk. It was this trip that filled me with a thirst for the natural world. So when I pause to consider how I got here, how it is that I became an educator for North Carolina State Parks, the credit lies primarily with my grandparents. They passed down to me their adventurous spirit and a love for wild spaces and the creatures inhabiting them. And for that, I am forever grateful.

Katie Sanford has been a park ranger at Dismal Swamp State Park since 2013.   Katie leads educational programs on snakes, insects and identifying animal droppings…

grandparents day 2
Ranger Katie Sanford leads an educational program on snakes.

Ranger Katie Sanford leads an educational program on snakes.

“My paternal grandmother raised three boys, so when I was born she was really hoping for a “girly girl” to wear dresses and play with dolls and such. Unfortunately running around outside, building “snail hotels,” and riding bikes and horses were always more appealing to me. For many years when I was young, I received a new porcelain doll come my birthday or Christmas. By the time I was heading into middle school and still hopelessly interested in the outdoors, she finally gave up and my gifts started to include model horses and other things that were not dolls! She came to visit NC (from PA!!) last fall, and I persuaded her to come to Dismal Swamp and even to walk the entire boardwalk. That was a pretty big deal, although she was a little distressed when I found a rough green snake and went into “park ranger mode.” To her credit, she didn’t get close, but she didn’t run off either!” 

Sean Higgins has been an interpretation and education manager with state parks since 2007. Part of his role has involved writing curriculum and museum exhibits on wildlife observation and birds…

grandparents day 3
Great Aunt Jeanne

“When I was eight years old, I was sent off alone to spend a week on the New Jersey shore with my grandmother. I have fond memories of watching MTV for the first time with my grandmother. But it was actually my Great Aunt Jeanne who encouraged my love for nature. Great Aunt Jeanne took me to the beach each day with my little Kodak camera.   Each day I would fill a film role with 24 pictures of common seagulls. Aunt Jeanne paid for the photo developing and even encouraged me by buying more film. I’m not sure my father would not have encouraged ‘wasting money on seagull pictures’ the same way Great Aunt Jeanne did. While I am more likely today to develop educational exhibits on bald eagles, sea turtles or alligators, I still have a soft spot for seagulls.”

One thought on “Have a grand time in state parks on Grandparents Day

  1. Living in the Bahamas, it was always a thrill for us to take our grandchildren fishing and snorkeling to look at the beautiful coral and colorful fish out at the sea. Jennifer liked going out at night to look for and catch land crabs, but the highlights for her were the camping trip in the Colorado Mountains and the camping trip floating down the Suwannee River in Florida. Can readily understand why she loves her job with the North Carolina State Parks.

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