by Marianne (Marnie) Sciamanda, Community Volunteer Ambassador (AmeriCorps) for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
Meet Sue, a volunteer at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Sue is a weekly volunteer at the Mississippi River Visitor Center (MRVC) in St. Paul, and a periodic volunteer at the Upper Saint Anthony Falls Lock and Dam Visitor Center in Minneapolis. Many experiences and places along the river stand out to Sue. Her favorite place along the river is Grey Cloud Dunes Scientific and Natural Area in Cottage Grove, which Sue describes as a “fascinating” place filled with a variety of microhabitats and sand dunes along the Mississippi. Her favorite volunteer experience is participating in nighttime coyote howling surveys within the park.
Sue initially was introduced to volunteer opportunities at the park through her Minnesota Master Naturalist training. Her capstone project for her training was establishing a geocaching route at Coldwater Spring. Through this opportunity, she learned about geocaching, but she learned even more about Coldwater Spring and the park. Afterwards, she began receiving the park’s monthly volunteer newsletter, where she found additional opportunities that sparked her interest. She says, “When I signed up for [volunteering at the MRVC] I had no idea it would turn into a weekly thing, but I’m glad it did.”
What keeps Sue coming back every week to the MRVC? The people she meets, she says, always bring her back: “I learn something new every day, whether it’s from the rangers, or the visitors, it doesn’t really matter, but being here is just so much fun.” She especially enjoys interacting with kids who visit, and helping kids living in urban areas discover how they can have fun experiences at the river.
If you are considering volunteering at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, Sue says, “Just do it! Whatever your interests are, and whatever your capabilities are, there is something that you can do here.” She emphasizes the variety of opportunities and the fact that there is a good fit for everyone to volunteer at the park.