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Skidaway Island State Park

Despite what you see in cartoons, not all Park Rangers say “Hey, Boo Boo!” Luckily, one of ours does. You’ll want to meet her, along with the other rangers who help maintain this beautiful state park located just outside of Savannah. Not only is it a great place to get away to for a few days. It’s also a great place for Teachable moments, as we go well over our quota on this barrier island!

Barrier Island

Barrier Island

We define the term “Barrier Island” to better explain what Skidaway Island and other nearby islands are.

The Giant Ground Sloth

The Giant Ground Sloth

In one of our less predictable Teachable Moments, we learn about the now extinct Giant Ground Sloth, what fossils are, and why the Georgia Coast is such a great place to find them.

Estuary

Estuary

We explain what an estuary is and why they’re such an important component of his area’s ecosystem.

Department of Natural Resources

Department of Natural Resources

Anyone who wants to be a Park Ranger in Georgia, or maybe explore a multitude of other jobs, should know what the DNR is. So we tell them.

Prescribed Burnings

Prescribed Burnings

Because this state park is located in Georgia’s Longleaf Pine Wiregrass Ecosystem, we explore the importance of prescribed burnings and how they actually help some species to thrive.

The Georgia Coast

Special Thanks To

Holly Holdsworth, Kate Charron, Drew Klalo, Keith Clark, Kerry Nelson.

SKIDAWAY ISLAND

VO

Today Fast Forward is visiting Skidaway Island State Park in Savannah, and hunting the giant ground sloth, a mysterious and massive creature who lives...I mean lived...uh...10,000 years ago?

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Can someone figure out what we're doing while the title sequence rolls? Come on people!

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VO

Welcome to Fast Forward. And before we tell you about this beautiful barrier island known as Skidaway, let's find out a little more about that giant ground sloth.

KERRY

The giant ground sloths lived across the US and South America. They had been thought to be only a South American animal, but in the 1820's, one was uncovered here on Skidaway Island, which was the first one found in the United States. And yeah, it's one of our more spectacular fossil finds, but the whole Georgia coast in general is actually a very good place, one of the better spots in the world for finding ice age era fossils.

VO

Now that we've got that out of the way, what's Skidaway Island State Park?

KERRY

The state park is just a small portion of Skidaway Island itself. Most of the island is covered by a residential community.

KATE

Our park is 588 acres.

KERRY

We've got 6 miles of hiking and biking trails. We have an 87 site campground which stays pretty busy year round. And we also have this little interpretive center up here, and that's got a lot of displays about the history of the island and some live examples of animals that can be found up out in the woods here.

VO

And not just in the woods. The reason this place has a lot of different types of animals living here is because a lot of this area is what you call an estuary. Kerry?

KERRY

An estuary in brief is any place where salt and freshwater are mixing together, like where a river runs into the ocean. So in Georgia, that generally refers to our salt marshes, which kind of surround Skidaway Island and most of our other barrier islands as well.

VO

So rivers and salt marshes carry a lot of nutrients from things like dead leaves, and these feed tiny organisms living in the estuary. These organisms then provide food for millions of animals who live there.

And Skidaway Island State Park is part of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, or DNR for short. So...what's the DNR?

HOLLY

The Department of Natural Resources is our employer. That's who we all work for. And there's a few different divisions under DNR, and state parks and historic sites is one of them

KERRY

It ranges from the state parks down to wildlife management areas, which are more for hunting. It goes to managing recreational fishing, commercial fishing, the environmental protection division, essentially anything related to the living or non-living elements of the, the greater ecosystem.

VO

And when people think of park rangers, they sometimes think of this:

HOLLY

Hey Boo Boo!

VO

But let's get to the truth. What do you all do here?

HOLLY

At Skidaway Island State Park, we've got 12 staff. 5 of them are full time staff, and 7 of them are part time staff that work year round. We've got office staff that help do some of the administrative side, answer the phones, check in campers. And then we have programming staff that lead the school groups and the hikes, staff our museum. And then we have the management staff, and that would be me--park manager and our assistant park manager.

DREW

A typical day can range from working here into the museum doing interpretive programs with children to adults from working in to the park office where I check people in and out, to working a night shift where I'll patrol the parks, make sure everything's safe and locked up at night, everybody's doing okay out there.

KEITH

I'm the maintenance ranger at Skidaway Island State Park. I'm responsible for constructions, repairs, trail maintenance, housekeeping, grounds maintenance.

HOLLY

A lot of the staff here are naturalist, and it's an entry level programming position where you are um teaching about the natural and cultural resources we have in the park.

VO

Yeah, let's stay on that teaching thing for a second. How does being a park ranger compare to being a schoolteacher?

KATE

I originally was kind of thinking for a little bit about becoming a teacher, and I get to do some of those same great things where you get to teach kids and work with kids. For me it's even better because here it's more teaching about nature and the outdoors and getting them to appreciate what we have here at the park and in Georgia in general.

VO

Plus you don't have to grade all those tests!

So what else do you like about your jobs?

HOLLY

One of the neat things about my job is I get to live on the park. They give me a house, and a truck to drive. It's such a beautiful place, and such a neat job, it's, it's really fun to be able to live where you work.

And I'm actually also a wild land firefighter, and so I go through wild land fire-fighting school. You're learning how to do prescribed burning where you actually put fire on the ground in the woods, and you catch the woods on fire on purpose. And that helps reduce the possibility of wild fires as well as a lot of species actually thrive from fire.

VO

Yep, that might sound a little strange. But Holly is talking about species like the pitch pine and long leaf pine that can be found in Georgia's longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem. In these areas, intentional, controlled fires can open up room to maintain habitat for many species of animals and plants. And while their bark is pretty fire resistant, pitch pine and longleaf pinecones pop open after a fire, releasing the seeds.

By the way, as a law enforcement officer, is part of a your job arresting the animals?

HOLLY

We don't lock up the animals. We lock up the people.

VO

Yeah. I thought so. Just one more question-how do I go about getting a job like yours?

KATE

I started working with DNR and with Skidaway Island State Park as a naturalist, part time. Then I was able to apply for the assistant manager position and was lucky enough to get it.

DREW

I would recommend being as active as possible, going down and speaking to people in the profession, current park rangers, current people who work at, as curators or naturalists in museums.

KERRY

Talking to your teachers. They do a lot more than just teach. They have great ideas for places to go volunteer at or places just to hang around and see what's out there.

KEITH

Well, I might not be giving you the correct answer to this, but you should always do what you love to do, and you will find your niche. And whatever you learn, you're going to be able to find a use for somewhere within the park system.

VO

Actually, I think you gave a great answer. After all, we're just trying to find jobs people love, and figure out how to get them. And don't worry. If yours isn't with the DNR, we'll be doing this again someplace else, on the next episode of Fast Forward!

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This content was developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, this content does not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.