The Natchez Trace Compact has endless great things to say about the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway: its stunning beauty, historic past, fun recreational activities, interesting attractions… let’s not forget the community events, delicious restaurants and comfortable lodging along the way. But these opportunities wouldn’t be made possible without the help from volunteers to keep this National Park Site preserved and beautiful.
The Natchez Trace Parkway Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program has recently been redesigned in an effort to reach the Centennial goal of one million additional volunteers for the National Park Service. With funding provided through the Southeast Region Special VIP program, the park hosted several volunteer events, including a Volunteer Fair in Ridgeland, MS to increase awareness of VIP opportunities. As campground hosts, working in the visitor centers, and roving to help visitors, volunteers are an invaluable resource to the park.
Recently the Natchez Trace Parkway has been fortunate enough to have volunteer Denny Sims working at our Parkway Visitor Center and Headquarters in Tupelo, MS. Denny retired ten years ago as a Texas cattle rancher/woodworker. He and his wife of 18 years, Lisa, started traveling the country in their RV six years ago, volunteering first in state parks and then national parks when he found the VIP program two years ago on Volunteer.gov.
The Natchez Trace Parkway maintenance staff worked hard to install an updated volunteer site for the Sims in October 2014. Before that he spent the summer volunteering at Grand Teton National Park. He has worked in an isolated cabin, a bustling visitor center, and has roved the trails to help visitors at both parks.
When asked why he volunteers, Denny said, “I like helping people… it’s a way to give something back to the country.” He’s no stranger to helping his country, as Denny is a U.S. Navy veteran who served six years in the Seabees Underwater Demolition Team and was active during the Vietnam War. Denny truly believes in the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive.” Each Christmas, no matter where they are, Denny and Lisa go down to the city utility office and pay the electric bill of a family who has had it shut off before the holidays.
Denny uses Volunteer.gov to look for open positions at other parks to continue volunteering for the National Park Service. By volunteering with an agency that has so many sites across the United States, Denny says that he and his wife get to see parts of the country they have never been to before, and see an astounding variety of landscapes, historical sites, and culture. “Each park has its unique characteristics. You’ll never see another Natchez Trace Parkway. So diverse as what it is,” said Denny.
In the past six years, he and his wife have travelled across the country East-West twice and North-South three times. They hope to eventually volunteer in New England where Lisa has never been. The Natchez Trace Parkway says he will be missed! “We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Denny and Lisa; they have made a significant contribution to the park and the visitor experience,” says Chief of Interpretation Terry Wildy.
Want to become a VIP or learn about VIP opportunities? Check out nps.gov/volunteer
To learn more about visiting the Natchez Trace and plan your trip, give us a call at 866.TRACE56 (872-2356) or visit scenictrace.com. Be social and follow on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram @TheNatchezTrace
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