Administrative Officer Lindsey Phillips told Historic City News reporters today that in the spring of 2003, three very young girls from Indiana visited the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument — now they have returned to show off their accomplishments.
The family met a Park Ranger eight years ago in St. Augustine who talked to the girls and provided each a “Junior Ranger” badge as a souvenir of their visit. The parents did not know any details concerning the Junior Ranger program but were inspired to learn more.
This first badge led to visits at many other national parks and has instilled in the whole family an “appreciation of our great national parks system.”
Then, Emily, age five, Erin, age three, and Erika age two, earned 30 badges while travelling to California and back that summer. In the past eight years, each girl has earned 108 Junior Ranger badges from 34 different states.
Their parents stated, “Our children prefer visiting National Parks, Monuments, Military Parks, Lakeshores, etc., than amusement parks.”
On April 7, 2011, the family returned to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, where the girls were excited to finally earn their Junior Ranger badge. Their weeklong trip included visiting nine other sites within the national park system.
For these girls, a brief encounter with a Park Ranger and inexpensive plastic badge have led them on an amazing adventure of learning, exploring, and caring for our national park sites.
These girls are a reminder that as Rangers, we have the ability to affect and inspire the thousands of visitors that come to our sites. Emily, Erin, and Erika, in turn, have inspired Rangers at the Castillo to pause and reflect on the important roles we all play as stewards and educators of our country’s greatest assets, our national treasures.
Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monuments encourage children ages six to 12 to participate in the Junior Ranger programs. This is a fun way for young visitors and their families to get the most out of their visits. As Junior Rangers, children will be a part of our team helping to protect our parks.
Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News contributed photograph by NPS