RioPalooza is a bilingual, annual event co-hosted by the US Forest Service, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, Hispanic Access Foundation, and many more. This year the event was held at the George Washington-Jefferson National Forests (GWJNF) during Hispanic Heritage Month. The free event aims to provide family-friendly activities to the local DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area to learn more about watershed conservation.
The opportunity allowed me to venture outside of my regular virtual position and assist wherever necessary. Being able to visit the forest, meet different partners, and introduce myself to GWJNF staff provided a great networking opportunity. A few volunteers from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club took us on a short hike to show us a recently built trail bridge and spoke with the Buffalo Soldiers who brought horses for guests to ride around the area.
The highlight of the event was a once in a lifetime opportunity to suit up as Woodsy the Owl for its 50th birthday celebration. For 30 minutes I suited up and took pictures with guests and partners. We even had Mr. G, a Latin Grammy Award-winning artist sing Happy Birthday. Although it was difficult to see and very hot by the end of my time in the suit, I can now say I have been Woodsy the Owl!
Overall, the event was a great opportunity to finally visit the closest national forest to the D.C. area and get to meet local partners that work with the agency. I had a great time getting away from the city for the day and being at the ground-level of the forest solidified my desire to work in the field as my next position within the Forest Service.
Agency: U.S Forest Service
Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)
Location: USFS Headquarters, Washington Office