If You Teach a Man to Fish

Written by: Jessica Lynch

Families Fishing New River Gorge National Park

When thinking of a National Park, people often think of vacation, or a getaway to a remote, unpopulated location. New River Gorge National Park however, borders hundreds of local properties and communities. As a part of the Park Service, New River Gorge has the responsibility to service all Americans, including those who live locally. 

More specifically, I utilized my community volunteer project to assist in a series of Grandfamilies fishing programs at the Park. Grandfamilies are families where grandparents raise their grandchildren due to varying circumstances making the parents unable to do so. This is prevalent in local West Virginia communities, so the Park has created weekend programs for families with young children to experience the beautiful scenery of the park and practice reeling in the big catch. I first assisted with this project by designing fliers for local churches that serve racially underrepresented visitors. This was in an attempt to reach a demographic that lacks representation within our park. It was a fulfilling creative challenge for me to try my hand at graphic design and make attractive media for the program. 

One of the fliers used for recruitment of an overnight fishing program
One of the fliers used for recruitment of an overnight fishing program.

Another challenge for me was the fishing and leading, itself. Having been working with cultural resources, I was used to talking to pieces of prehistoric rock and ceramics. Volunteering my time with the project allowed me to interact with the public, with some kids as young as 4 years old, and encourage them to have patience while waiting for the local rock bass and brook trout. I tried my hand at fishing after seeing some of the youth catch multiple fish. Alas, I was successful in catching only a stick. 

Casting a line at the Camp Brookside Environmental Education Center
Casting a line at the Camp Brookside Environmental Education Center. Can you find the bobber amongst the bubbles?

My volunteer project supports the broader goal to increase access to the National Park and its resources by making everyone feel like they belong in a setting that has historically been claimed as white and able-bodied.  As the saying goes: if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day – If you teach a man to fish in a Park that they have a right to as much as anybody else, you give them a lifetime of adventure and confidence.

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