The summer of 2012 is just about over, with Labor Day weekend fast approaching. After writing about all the great people I work with and all the fun programs we offer, I've decided to give my two cents for this second-to-last weekend of the summer. I'm the Great Outdoors Colorado park naturalist/environmental educator and sort of volunteer coordinator. This is my third season at Rifle Gap State Park Complex. I came out here for the summers of '09 and '10. I took a break last summer. I hang out here because this summer job is my "retirement gig," and working for the park system is my "Livin' the dream" hobby. I retired from the public school system as a special education teacher and administrator. My home town is Littleton. My job entails many duties, including writing this weekly column; researching, developing and presenting environmental education programs for the park visitor and scheduling special events/guest presenters. I also create the weekly program schedule and advertise the programs through brochures on bulletin boards in the park, in the community and on the Internet. This hobby of mine has some great benefits, from learning new things, meeting new friends and becoming a writer. I personally view my classroom as the great outdoors. Rifle Falls, Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap are my classroom. I've always viewed myself as a lifelong continuous learner. And I've learned all kinds of things I would have never researched in my previous profession. Things like wildlife and ecosystems. I also enjoy the work because everyone is a "happy camper." I work with happy people (mostly families) on vacation and with some phenomenal folks here at the park, who I call friends. Everyone is just typically happy here at Rifle Gap! Hidden treasures? I would say our bats. I highly recommend folks come out for my environmental education program on the furry winged creatures. Depending upon special events, I offer the program at the Mountain Mist Amphitheatre at Rifle Falls on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 8 p.m. Bring your flashlights. It could be my last bat program for the season. The bats begin to migrate south once the cooler air comes rolling into these hills. Most impressive story? I have always been very impressed with how our rangers handle emergencies. I was the first one on the scene of a particular emergency and called it in. It was incredible to watch the rangers work with the individual who needed medical attention. All went very well.While my time here will end soon, you can still come to any of the three parks. The benefits of spending time in the great outdoors are incredible. I've seen the changes firsthand. Everyone just sort of relaxes and calms down from the everyday pressures of living. Everyone is on vacation. Rifle Gap, Rifle Falls and Harvey Gap are managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, created with the merger of Colorado State Parks and Division of Wildlife. The agency manages 42 state parks, all of Colorado's wildlife, more than 300 state wildlife areas and a host of recreational programs. For more, go online to www.parks.state.co.us and http://wildlife.state.co.us.Terry Wise is the summer season park naturalist and volunteer coordinator for the Rifle Gap State Park Complex. Reach her at 625-1607.
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