Park Happenings: Introducing Stephen

<I>WASHINGTON STATE PARKS</I><BR>Stephen Wood is taking on fresh challenges as an interpretive specialist at Cape D.

Name: Stephen Wood

Position: Parks Interpretive Specialist

Job Description: A brave soul, a big heart and a sharp mind is how I would summarize Stephen Wood. I've had the pleasure of working with him for the summer and I look forward to many years of adventures ahead. Stephen was hired early in the summer to be the Interpretive Volunteer Coordinator for the Long Beach Area State Parks. This is a very important position for our local parks as he is responsible for recruiting, scheduling and training volunteers for multiple interpretive facilities including the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, North Head Lighthouse and the Fort Columbia Interpretive Center. It's the support of these volunteers that allows the fulltime staff to concentrate on offering the variety of public programs it does such as the Sea Shanty Camp, Waikiki Beach Concert Series and Clark's Campsite.

Not only does Stephen handle the Interpretive Volunteer Program, he also manages the operations of the North Head Lighthouse. According to Stephen he's, "had to hit the ground running, sometimes with bare feet across tack strewn roads." This summer has been a challenging one keeping the volunteer schedule filled. With the higher gas prices, many volunteers, who stay in the RVs when working for the park, are driving less. The need for local volunteers in our local parks has never been greater.

Education/Related Experience: Originally from Manhattan, Kan., Stephen stayed in the "Little Apple" to attend Kansas State University in his hometown. Originally Stephen started his education pursuing expertise in landscape design until he saw another avenue to work outdoors and make a difference beyond aesthetics. He graduated with a degree in Park Resource Management with a minor in Environmental Sciences. During and shortly after school, Stephen challenged himself with several internships around the country. He worked as an interpreter for the National Park Service at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. He still has an affinity for caves and was excited to hear about the old sea caves found at Cape Disappointment. Stephen spent some time "working" on a tall ship, the A.J. Meerwald. This vessel was used by the Bayshore Discovery Project in a similar way as Washington's tall ship the Lady Washington.

He also spent a summer working as a park ranger for Colorado State Parks at Steamboat Lake near Steamboat Springs. This experience reinforced his interest in interpretation as a career.

In December 2005 Stephen was hired by Washington State Parks as a fulltime interpretive specialist at Grayland Beach State Park, near Westport. Compared to Cape Disappointment with its five interpreters there he was the only interpreter on staff and he had to build the park's program from nothing. While in the South Beach area, Stephen helped build an 85 seat amphitheater, co-wrote a multiple park interpretive plan and coordinated a successful native plant restoration project at Bottle Beach. This project revealed to Stephen the power of volunteers. The project or special event had over 40 local volunteers contributing more than 100 volunteer hours. Some of you may have seen Stephen at the Ilwaco Heritage Museum in 2005 when he played a role in "Shipwreck Stories and Sea Shanties" portraying a cocky and boisterous Lt. Charles Wilkes.

Hobbies or Interests: Stephen's favorite way to spend his free time since moving to the Long Beach Peninsula is getting up early and heading to Waikiki Beach to surf, especially when, "the wind is light and the waves are good." Besides surfing, you might say he likes to surf. When I asked him what else, if anything he enjoys when hanging out locally he admitted to liking campfires on the beach, "A safe distance from the dune grass of course."

Words of Wisdom: I find you can learn a lot about a person from the quotes they have memorized. Some men are the "Get 'er Done" kind of guy and others are more philosophical. Stephen recited to me two of his favorite inspirational selections. The first is by Henry David Thoreau it goes, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined." The other is by famous underwater explorer, Jaques Cousteau: "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever." I couldn't have said it better. You can look forward to exciting and innovative programs to come from Stephen.

Jon Schmidt is an Interpretive Specialist at Cape Disappointment State Park. To contact him, call the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at 642-3029 or e-mail lcic@parks.wa.gov.

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