State park’s staff focused on outreach

By John Dilmore

Atlanta State Park is a familiar part of the local recreational landscape. 
But the park recently received national and worldwide media attention for a reason few could have predicted -- unless they were familiar with the plant growth known as a wool sower gall, and the works of Dr. Seuss.
After park staff posted to Facebook a photo of a wool sower gall -- which forms when a wool sower wasp lays eggs in a white oak -- it didn’t take long for the post to go viral, as viewers from around the world drew comparisons between the appearance of the strange growth and fanciful plants that appear in the works of Dr. Seuss. 
“The next day I got to work and my message center over here was full,” said park superintendent Sam Knox. “I talked to Miami, New York, Seattle, L.A., CBS national, USA Today -- it was just crazy, over this one little picture. But it was really cool.”
The excitement, like the wool sower gall itself, was somewhat short-lived. But it served as a reminder for many of the discoveries to be made in Atlanta State Park and places like it.
Keeping that sense of fun top-of-mind is a focus of the park staff’s outreach efforts. Atlanta State Park receives between 35,000 and 40,000 visitors a year, from places far and wide. But the park staff focuses on keeping the local populace engaged.
“Any time we can get kids out here – that’s really where our focus is,” Knox said. “We try to engage all different aspects of the community, but … that’s where it’s at. And it’s not just parks -- we want them in parks, but just outdoors in general. We want to perpetuate that conservation, and kids are how that’s going to happen.”
The park staff plans activities -- on-site and off-site -- on a regular basis. For instance, on April 14, there will be both a “Watercolor Wonders” event and a “Park after Dark” event. One offers visitors a chance to paint their own masterpiece, while the other involves listening for nocturnal animals. On April 15, there’s “Easter in the Park”. 
More on such planned events can be found online at
Outreach to local schools is on the agenda as well.
Knox said, “We have one of our rangers that is going out to Queen City and hopefully Atlanta in the next couple of weeks to discuss some of the plants here in the park. Also, we’re going to try to get an Arts in the Park event with Atlanta and Queen City as well.”
But, with a staff of only five, it’s not always easy to keep all the bases covered.
“All of our time is spent keeping the park safe and clean and maintained,” Knox said. “We really don’t have that much time to reach out to the community. But this year we have made a concerted effort and trimmed away some other things that we normally spend some time on, to allow more time for us to reach out and do events -- not only at the park but outside the park as well. 
“It’s kind of something we’re trying to really get done this year.”
It’s all aimed at keeping the local community reminded of the wonders -- discovered and undiscovered -- at the park right down the road from them, something it doesn’t take a viral social media post (or a Dr. Seuss reference) to make apparent for those familiar with the facility. In short, the park is part of the familiar fabric of the local community. “We try to make the community feel that way,” Knox said.

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