Volunteers-In-Park: Paul

by Marianne (Marnie) Sciamanda, Community Volunteer Ambassador (AmeriCorps) for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

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Meet Paul, a volunteer at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Paul lists two popular parks as his favorite places along the river – Hidden Falls and Coldwater Spring. Most of his time volunteering at the park has been with Coldwater Spring, working with the weekly Coldwater Crew on Thursdays.

Paul was visiting Coldwater Spring before the land was owned by the National Park Service, and he shares many special memories of the land. He was introduced to Coldwater Spring in 1998, amidst a land occupation sparked by the impending redevelopment of Highway 55, which would destroy four sacred trees and threatened the flow to Coldwater Spring. He recalls many unique features no longer at the site, including a hand-built labyrinth and a hollowed maple tree that collected offerings from visitors who say it as a portal between worlds.

Eventually, Paul’s frequent visits to Coldwater Spring became frequent workdays with the Coldwater Crew, as he became involved with habitat restoration at the site after the Bureau of Mines buildings came down. His first memory working with the Park Service is with National Public Lands Day celebrated at Coldwater Spring. A drought one year meant that long-term volunteers were needed to water plants planted at the event. From then on, he began volunteering weekly.

Paul is deeply connected with the land, which makes his work at Coldwater Spring even more impactful. He considers Coldwater to be like a second backyard to him—only bigger, and calls it his “spirit home.” If you asked Paul why he volunteers at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, he will answer with a simple reason: “the land called me.” He emphasizes the importance of a place like Coldwater Spring – a place that is “creating beauty, [and] creating hope,” and is a “gift for future generations.”