Promoting the park

LUVERNE -- Before he was hired as an intern at Blue Mounds State Park, Jesse Young didn't know much about the southwest corner of Minnesota. He grew up in Little Falls, located in the center of the state, and was attending college in Brainerd.

Blue Mounds Intern
Jesse Young, a second-year intern at Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne, enjoys sharing his knowledge of the park's flora and fauna with visitors. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

LUVERNE -- Before he was hired as an intern at Blue Mounds State Park, Jesse Young didn't know much about the southwest corner of Minnesota. He grew up in Little Falls, located in the center of the state, and was attending college in Brainerd.

But after two summers in Luverne, Young talks knowledgeably and enthusiastically about the geological processes that created Blue Mounds' unique rock formations, the animals that live in the park and the prairie ecosystem that dominates the southwest region -- information that he shares during interpretive programs he presents on weekends at the park. The programs -- geared largely toward families and children -- are attended by visitors who use the park's camping facilities as well as area residents.

"What I do usually is a Friday night program, so it allows people who are coming in to the park to get all set up," Young explained. "Then there are two Saturday programs, one earlier in the day and one later at night, and then a Sunday morning program. We do get a lot of campers, but we've been putting information in the local papers and do get quite few people coming from different areas for the programs. We've had people come over from Worthington, coming up from Luverne and the surrounding area. It's great to get people from the area community out here."

This is Young's second summer at Blue Mounds State Park; last year he was one of two interns, this year he is the solo intern.

"What they're doing is some state parks are hiring interns to help out," and fill niches for which there isn't funding, Young said. "That way, they train in new people who are interested in getting a career and get extra help out of it as well."


The park staff definitely appreciates the extra help during the busy summer months.

"We feel very fortunate that Mr. Young came back to work for us this year," said Blue Mounds State Park manager Rick White. "He has that ability to notice everything going on around him, jump in and take off with it. He's a very hard worker, and ... very good at shifting gears in midstream. He's very knowledgeable, and what he doesn't know, he's learned to find the answers for. He's the type of individual who will find enjoyment and expand his horizons wherever you plunk him down at."

Young first learned about the internship opportunity at Blue Mounds through a posting at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. After an interview, he was hired for the post in 2008 and then again this year.

According to White, the intern program came about when a local park supporter inquired about the lack of educational offerings and offered to supplement state funding. The Blue Mounds advisory group continues to accept donations to keep the program feasible.

Young's main assignment, from his very first day on the job, has been to "put on programs, help educate the visitors about the cultural and natural resources and history of the place."

"We did go to a training about how to put programs together," Young recalled. "When we started doing it, they had some programs that people had already done, so we started making up some of our own programs to go along with the stuff they already had. I did a lot of reading, walking around the park, going to all the areas that people are interested in. Learning about all the flowers was a big thing for me, because the prairie flowers are different than the flowers back home. I'm still learning new stuff today.

"It's been a lot of fun, learning about a whole other area of the state. It is such a diverse state."

One of Young's favorite programs is the "History Hike."


"You get to get out and see the park, all the flowers and the beauty of the park," he described, "and learn about the quarry and rock alignment and the history of the park as well. It's a good mix of getting to see all of what Blue Mounds has. ... The biggest turnout is probably for the bison program. I give a presentation on the bison, talk about the bison at the park. A lot of people come to that, I think, because it's one of the big things people know about Blue Mounds."

In addition to the education programming, Young staffs the park's Interpretive Center -- once home to the late Frederick Manfred, a well-known regional author -- from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. While it's an interesting place to hang out, Young would prefer to be trekking through the park's outdoor venues.

"I just really like the cliff line," he said. "It's so unique, and it's just so cool how it's just there in the middle of this place."

With the arrival of August, Young's time at Blue Mounds is almost done. Having completed his two years at Central Lakes College, he will soon leave for the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, where he plans to finish his degree in resource management with a minor in environmental education.

"I kind of always knew it was something I wanted to do, and once I tried it out, I knew I wanted to do more," explained Young about how his time at Blue Mounds has influenced his educational path. "It was something I'd always been interested in, and definitely once I did it, that gave me insight into what it would be like to do it for a career."

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