Moving from an eastern park to a southwestern park, I definitely anticipated a complete change of scenery and weather. Having previously visited Zion, Bryce, Arches and several other national parks in this area I had some idea of the terrain. What I hadn’t considered, and am discovering, is the different perspective visitors from western states might have on various topics.
When discussing possible ideas for my evening program with my supervisor, he thought that it would be great to do a program on wilderness, but to be sure to include multiple points of view. So in prepping for my program, I did research other opinions about wilderness and ownership of federal lands. I like to be prepared in case of questions!After my supervisor came to my evening program, he commented the next morning that he had gone home and thought about wilderness all night! I laughed and commented that that is a sign of a good interpretive program! I had “provoked” him into thinking about his personal definition of wilderness! After discussing my program with him further, he encouraged me to add a little more about some of the local’s point of view. I did, while continuing to explain what the term designated wilderness means and how the park manages its wilderness areas. At my next program, I did indeed have someone whose idea of wilderness included the use of motorized vehicles such as off-road vehicles. By acknowledging his viewpoint, I could elaborate on the different land uses and thus different ways of managing the land to meet various needs. While this young man’s definition of wilderness is different from designated wilderness as defined in the Wilderness Act, it is his way of enjoying the outdoors and getting away from it all. By including his perspectives in my program, I can discuss other land uses in the vicinity that meet his needs while also elaborating on the need for designated wilderness to provide experiences for those who wish a more quiet and primitive atmosphere.
Likewise, in discussing the reintroduction of the California condor and the leading cause of mortality – lead poisoning from ingesting lead bullet fragments found in discarded carcasses – I have had to be sensitive to hunters. I have had hunters at my programs and have asked them to share with us. In prepping for my program about condors, I had the opportunity to meet with the director of the AZ reintroduction program who himself is a hunter. He had some great stories to share about how conservation and hunting organizations can work together to preserve an amazing species.
Being in a desert climate in a canyon is completely different than being on the top of an Appalachian mountain ridge. I have adapted some of my daily routines and have had many new experiences. Similarly, I continue to adapt my programs to allow for a wide variety of visitors’ perspectives. In an earlier posting Steve Dimse recommended seeing your site with fresh eyes. The same is true for your programs. Take a closer look at your audience. Is there another point of view? Have you researched all sides of a topic? Are you presenting all sides of a topic and allowing the visitor to form his/her own conclusions? Have fun exploring all perspectives and be “gutsy” in your programs. You may be surprised at the connections you make!