“Lions, tigers and bears, oh my!” my friend's dad exclaimed as we hiked along Billy Goat Trail at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. The sunlight reflected on the lichen covered rocks as we traveled the path surrounded by pine and cedar trees. As the sun lowered in the sky, we were warned of the strange creatures lurking in the forest. We ran through the forest shrieking with delight. Flashes of movement out of the corner of our eye could have been anything, and that was half the fun. The forest was full of unknowns and possibilities.
The park lies between the powerful Potomac River and the C&O Canal and eventually leads guests to an overlook at the fall line, the boundary between Piedmont Plateau and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. This park and this river were just one of the many places that shaped me into the person I am today. I have many fond memories of looking for birds in the forest, hearing frogs singing in the spring and watching skinks run across the rocks in the summer. Growing up in Washington, D.C. I was lucky to visit many of the local parks and take trips to the surrounding states. My childhood was filled with visits to Rock Creek Park and summer drives following the Susquehanna River through Pennsylvania into upstate New York.
I carried my passion for the local landscape with me to college where I studied communications with the intent of working on science communications. Although I had never considered my hobbies as part of my career, in my last years of college I started learning about sustainable farming which caught my attention as I was an avid gardener. Upon graduating from school, I started working in environmental education and sustainable farming helping to set up school gardens in Washington, D.C. I was thrilled with the opportunity to bring healthy options to local communities while also working on environmental issues. I loved that I was bringing together my interests in community well-being and environmental health. However, after several years I wanted to look at things at a bigger scale. This is when I started working with for-profit businesses and nonprofits bringing sustainable businesses and green jobs into local communities.
My love for my work grew from my fascination with the intersection of environmental restoration and community health. After several years, I found an opportunity to work for Chesapeake Research Consortium at the Chesapeake Bay Program as an environmental management staffer. This work perfectly merged my background with sustainable farming, environmental education and communications. In my time with Chesapeake Research Consortium, I pursued a Master Naturalist Certification with the Anacostia Watershed Society which deepened my knowledge and appreciation for my home watershed. Over the years, my fascination with the natural world and appreciation for the people that protect it has only grown.
I’ve returned to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park many times since that first trip and still go there several times a year. The views of the Potomac River are just as beautiful as I remember and more meaningful now that I know how many people care for our parks and waterways. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to protect the places that inspired me. It's easy to retain a childlike sense of wonder when you live in a place with so many places to explore and work in a field with so much hope for the future.