Pohick Rangers was the longest running program at Hidden Pond Nature Center. Through three decades the program successfully connected more than 1,000 children to nature, forging bonds that last lifetimes. It was an in-depth nature program that produced countless Park Authority volunteers and spawned multiple careers in natural resource fields. The Pohick Rangers series is now retired, and a new program called Pohick Explorers was inspired by this beloved series.
Instilling a Lifelong Love of Nature Since 1991
As told by Hidden Pond Site Manager Mike McCaffrey (previous)
The Pohick Rangers started as a kind of nature club patterned after a club that I had been part of at my elementary school in Maryland when I was growing up. Remembering how much fun it had been was one of several reasons we wanted to do something like that at Hidden Pond. We also wanted to show off the great natural areas of our park and to help young people have a fun, in-the-field learning experience.
Ranger program topics include wetland studies, forestry, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, nocturnal wildlife, geology and the site’s cultural history. The hands-on netting experience at the creek, along with fishing and bug hunting, are popular parts of the program. However, just being out and exploring woodlands by climbing over logs and rocks and traversing a stream ignite a Ranger’s sense of discovery. The wide array of personalities in the program makes its projects fun for staff and for the group.
Rangers have restored habitat, and vernal pools they built in 1998 and 2012 are now amphibian breeding areas. Several hundred tree seedlings have been planted in areas where youngsters removed invasive plant species.
Since its inception in 1991, the program has helped ready young people become park volunteers and, in some instances, to become staff. Around the county, state, and nation, former Pohick Rangers are teachers, aerospace engineers, business people, journalists, graphic designers, doctors, college professors, military, and scientists.
No matter what these young people end up doing in their adult lives, Pohick Rangers take with them a greater appreciation of what our natural world is all about and what it offers us. They have a new compassion and respect for living things that they will share with others. I know that this is so, for I still am friends with three of the original Pohick Rangers from 1991, and their love for nature now is as strong as it was three decades ago.