Conrad Baker: Environmental Education Assistant, Letchworth State Park
How long have you been with the agency?
I started as an SCA member in February 2020, was hired as a Park and Recreation Aide in October 2020, and then as an Environmental Education Assistant in October 2021.
What does someone in your position do?
I guide nature and history walks for the public, school groups, field trips, homeschoolers, scouts, etc. at Letchworth State Park, as well as other parks in the Genesee Region, like Hamlin Beach, Lakeside, and the Genesee Valley Greenway. I design and build nature and history displays for our nature center and museum. I create virtual programs for Letchworth’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Lately, I’ve been building self-guided virtual options for our First Day Hikes and splitting wood in preparation for our biggest spring program, maple sugaring.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen or done? During COVID shutdowns, I created short weekly educational videos and several longer, more involved virtual field trips. These longer virtual field trips are YouTube videos featuring most content that a group would hear on our most popular field trips: Geology, Mammals, Forest Ecology, The Mount Morris Dam, Life of the Monarch, Making Maple Syrup, and Invasive Species. As an opportunity to dust off some video production skills from my former journalism days, these videos explore astounding locations. To show Letchworth educator Elijah Kruger and US Army Corps of Engineers Ranger Tom Wendzel in the nooks and crannies of old-growth forest, the inner tunnels of the Mount Morris Dam, rock falls in the Lower Falls gorge, or the first glimpses inside Letchworth’s new sugarhouse, was an unforgettable way to kick off an education career, and I’m thankful for it.
Is there a destination you’d recommend to someone?
A newcomer to Letchworth State Park has to see all three major waterfalls, which are some of the largest and most accessible shale gorge waterfalls on the East Coast. Photos never do them justice. After that, I always recommend Trail 2 and Trail 2A containing some rare remaining old-growth forest in New York. Although there are no gorge views and no waterfalls, the opportunity to walk under quiet 200+ year old hemlocks and oaks, with generations of moss and mushrooms flourishing around them, should not be passed up. In the larger Genesee Region, the horizon-to-horizon state forests and wildlands south of Letchworth are must-see. Neighboring villages of Perry, Mount Morris, and Geneseo are havens for hungry and thirsty adventurers and the city of Rochester to the north is the place for nightlife and yet more waterfalls.
What inspired you to work in the park system?
I have lived in the Genesee River Valley for 10 years. The network of hospitality entrepreneurs, municipal leaders, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts make this a wonderful place to live, work, and explore. Now, I enjoy strong support from an experienced team of park managers and an agency that lets me connect with these communities to tell the story of this beautiful place better than ever before and call on next generations to continue to preserve and enjoy it.