Volunteer Tour Guides at Crystal Bridges receive copious in-museum training to prepare them for their role , but once they have passed their tests and become full-fledged Guides, the Museum continues to offer learning opportunities to enhance their volunteer experience and the experiences of the guests they tour. Today, Guide Program Assistant Allie Britt gives us the skinny on a recent continuing education trip for Trail Guides. –LD
On June 9th the Crystal Bridges Trail Guides took their training on the road! To supplement all the wonderful things that they learn in ongoing training in the classroom and on our trails, the group goes on an offsite adventure every year. On this year’s trip, they visited both London and Paris without even leaving the state!
The group loaded into two mini vans and hit the road to London, Arkansas first where they were treated to a tour of the Pine Ridge Gardens by owner and “chief grower and bottle washer” Mary Ann King and her faithful companion Candy, a yellow lab. We learned a lot about the different types of plants that she grows and even more about how to identify different plants, shrubs, and trees (red oaks have pointy-lobed leaves, while the leaves of white oaks are less likely to poke you in the eye). While receiving all of that information was great, the most interesting part of the tour was hearing Mary Ann discuss each plant, shrub, and tree on her property as though it was dearly loved old friend.
Once the group purchased their plants and thanked Mary Ann for her time, it was off to Mount Magazine State Park near Paris, Arkansas. Upon arrival the group had just enough time to eat lunch on the porch of the park’s lodge and take in the incredible views before joining Lori Spencer, known to some as Arkansas’s Butterfly Lady, for a tour of the lodge’s gardens. Lori and the other volunteers have created a beautiful and useful space where the restaurant staff can go to find herbs for dishes, butterflies can feed, and children can learn more about plants and the history of the park. Although the gardens looked absolutely beautiful, Lori was quick to point out that even though deer have all that space to roam and feed in, they seem to enjoy the gardens just a little bit more.
After talking with Lori, the group was off to explore more of the space where she wishes the deer would roam and feed. A guided trail hike with Park Interpreter, Brandy Oliver was next on the list. She met us at the Benefield Loop Trail where she gave us each an index card with either a shape or color on it along with instructions to find said shape or color at each stop we made. Sounds easy, right? Well, the experience makes you realize that unless you are in a field of wildflowers or take the easy route and use the sky, there’s not much blue found in nature! It’s a great way to hone your observation skills.
After a long, hot day, the group arrived back at Crystal Bridges with tons of new knowledge and ideas about things that they want to include in the next trail tour they offer, but what really stands out as the highlight of the trip is the opportunity to see the passion Mary Ann, Lori, and Brandy all are have for their work shine through in the tours that they give.
To meet one of our wonderful Trail Guides and learn more about the trails and grounds at Crystal Bridges, drop in and attend a Summer Blooms or Art Trail Tour. The tour is offered through July 17th on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm, and the Art Trail Tour is offered on Fridays from 4 to 5 p.m. Interested in becoming a Crystal Bridges Volunteer? Click here for more information.