Outside the Classroom: Partners in the Park – Grand Canyon Parashant
Native Americans, Mormons, insects, tourists, animals, and, yes, bats have gathered around Pipe Spring in Utah throughout its existence. Currently, the preserved Mormon settlement around the spring has been designated as a national monument and serves as a tourist attraction. Whether it was Benn the Paiute Native American turned Park Ranger’s traditional Memorial Day performance that stopped tourists in their tracks or the continuum of stars that shone around the monument’s small body of water after the visitor center had closed and our student group returned at nightfall to catch bats, this was a poignant place.
Pipe Spring National Monument in Utah is one of the only natural water sources for miles around. In the southwest, within the far-ranging landscapes and dramatic views, beauty abounds, but other than that, there is actually very little. The dry scrub grass, scant juniper trees, and a lizard or bird here and there create a very unique and barren type of natural environment.
In a desert landscape, where nature is stripped down to its bare bones—rocks, dust, sun, and wind—the scarcity of water was a constant concern. So, at Pipe Springs, when our group of students from around the country gathered to help Professor John Taylor of Southern Utah University spread a thin net (called a mist net) around the small vestibule designed to hold water from the spring, we were helping with his research, but, really, we were treading on the fringe of an investigation of intellectual issues much deeper than catching bats.
“How do you catch a bat?” John Taylor, wearing gloves made for baseball player, joked, “With batting gloves.”
His joke resonated, but, as much of the small talk amidst the grandness of the landscape had a habit of doing, his words drifted away and allowed our thoughts to return to the solitude brought on by the huge open spaces of Southern Utah and the Arizona Strip. With no cell phone reception, no paved roads, and no stores on our some 70 miles of dirt road out to the Grand Canyon, the blankness evoked a search for something sublime and beautiful in this new and exciting environment, as well as a more internal journey, allowing time to examine many of my own thoughts and ideas.
As I enter my senior year at Northeastern University, my academic experience is much like my trip with Partners in the Park through Grand Canyon. I have embarked on a path, at times more linear than others, but I am most grateful for the opportunities I have had to explore and shape and reshape my own thoughts in a figurative world much more far ranging even than the depths of Grand Canyon.
In my experience at Northeastern, I have interned with The Emerald Necklace Conservancy, a nonprofit devoted to stewarding Boston’s Park system, traveled to the Grand Canyon with Partners in the Park, and I am now on my second co-op at the Boston Bar Association. This diversity of opportunities has allowed me to apply the knowledge I have garnered in my studies to practical, hands-on situations, as well as to the more abstract and very meaningful emotions and beliefs I had a chance to examine and reaffirm during my time in the southwest.
Now when I am asked, “How do you catch a bat?” I think back on my invaluable experience with Partners in the Park and the numerous park officials I met and spoke with. Thanks to the opportunity I had to help John Taylor, I now know how a mist net can be used to catch bats, but, what’s more than that, I can think back to that experience and I can relate it to my own knowledge from my co-ops and classes and further relate it to my current work at the Boston Bar Association regarding legislation and my studies around Public Policy.
Now that I know how a mist net operates, I can move on to new and more exciting questions, expanding my examination of Pipe Spring to look at it as far as its importance as a gathering place, a publicly managed entity, and a water source in the beautiful and overwhelming landscape of the Arizona Strip and Grand Canyon. While I found many answers and learned much through my trip to the Grand Canyon, I have much more searching and much more thinking to do as I assemble the spread out pieces I’ve begun to gather on my personal voyage. These are pieces I hope to gather in an attempt to address the complex questions of today’s world and, by continuing to build on the groundwork I’ve created in school, I imagine my journey will continue long past the integral base I have established at Northeastern.