SEBRING —Evan Spark and Raenbow Bright became park rangers this past week, but you probably won’t see them warning people about violating park rules or clearing trails for visitors to Highlands Hammock State Park.
But in the future, their experience may encourage them to become public advocates for the park, Highlands Hammock officials hope.
Evan and Raenbow, both 7 and from Sebring, were among the first participants and graduates of the Junior Ranger program at Highlands Hammock State Park.
Park ranger Laura Anne McMullen said the children seemed to be very interested in the program.
“I think they were excited,” she said. “I think if they’re learning something and they want to come back we’re really doing our job.”
She said the state has had a junior ranger program in the past. It’s now being restarted.
The program’s aim is to get the children interested in park rangers and what park rangers do, she said.
After a two-hour initial session, each participant got a certificate for completing the program. And in the future they get the opportunity to do activities at Highlands Hammock or another state park and receive patches or badges.
Raenbow said she enjoyed the program.
“I think it’s a good,” she said, adding she likes learning about animals.
Ronnie McMahan, 12, a junior ranger, said he enjoys going to the park.
“I like nature,” he said. “I like learning more about animals.”
His father, Ron McMahan, said that his son also likes to attend 5K run events at the park.
Gail Sparks, who attended the program with her sons, Evan and Grayson, 5, said she thinks the ranger program is “wonderful” for the children.
Some of the program involved learning the basics of being a ranger. McMullen discussed the various tools they use to carry out their job, which includes providing tours, maintaining trails, picking up litter and scheduling use of camp sites.
Those tools include computers, kayaks, GPS units, radios, litter sticks and chainsaws.
The program also included learning that the state has more than 170 parks.
They learned about activities typically available at parks. Those include swimming, camping, hiking, paddling, fishing and star gazing.
The Junior Ranger program is expected to be offered several times this year. Information is available on the Facebook page of Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park.
During the program this week, the children enjoyed answering questions about the park, but on a couple of occasions got off topic.
“I’m not sure Santa exists,” one girl said.
“That’s a whole other topic,” McMullen said.