Exchange Matters / June 29, 2016

#FindYourPark: Rocky Mountain Memories

The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial this year! Global Ties U.S. wanted to showcase how our members incorporate National Parks into their international exchange programming to help visitors #FindYourPark and give them a truly unique experience.

WorldDenver is the largest Global Ties U.S. Community-Based Member in Colorado, hosting programs for participants in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), Youth Programs, and many others. One of the many unique parts that make WorldDenver so great is that it is only two hours away from the illustrious Rocky Mountain National Park, a place where visitors can see all of Earth’s natural coloring. Photo courtesy of WorldDenver.

Rocky Mountain National Park’s 416 square miles encompass and protect spectacular mountain environments. This includes Trail Ridge Road – which crests over 12,000 feet, encompassing many overlooks in which to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds – along with over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, wildlife, and starry nights. With almost 90 percent of the park managed as wilderness, Rocky Mountain National Park is not only a beautiful, cultural excursion, but also one of the most valuable professional resources WorldDenver has.

In 2015 alone, of the 621 international visitors who came to Denver via WorldDenver, 243 of them were impacted by a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park. There was one group of three leaders from Indonesia who were especially impacted by their visit. With a theme of “U.S. Environmental Protection and Biodiversity: Wildlife,” this group was excited to come to Colorado to learn about wildlife in the spring. Unfortunately, a snow storm struck, which caught the visitors by surprise! Unprepared for such weather in May, the visitors had to borrow jackets in order to keep warm. Despite the weather, the visitors were still able to have a stimulating conversation on the day-to-day management and operations of a national park.

Months later, another IVLP group came to Rocky Mountain National Park as part of their participation in a project titled, “Parks and Protected Area Management.” These 10 international visitors were from such diverse locations as Belize, Jordan, the People’s Republic of China, South Africa, and others. Since many of these honored guests were currently working in the parks services in their home countries, it was an honor for them to have a hands-on day in nature with their counterparts in Colorado. A day after visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, these same visitors stopped at the Royal Gorge Bridge before ending their “parks” tour with a full day at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado.

By Steve Reitz, WorldDenver