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A Matter of Interpretation – The Beauty and Mystery of Red Rock Canyon

Friends of Red Rock Canyon

… there are those days that I get out of my car and I can smell the cliff rose and see the sun shine on the sandstone escarpment and realize that I am very blessed to come to work every day and experience the beauty that surrounds me.

 

So, what does Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Interpretive Ranger Kate Sorom do on her day
off?

Take a two-and-a-half mile walk in the Calico Hills led by Friends’ President Tom Lisby, demonstrating that Red Rock Canyon represents more than a job; it’s a passion.

A passion that she always wants to share with visitors – especially young people.

A Las Vegas native, Kate grew up as a ‘city kid,’ but one whose parents frequently took the family camping on Mount Charleston and at Beaver Dam State Park on the Nevada-Utah border. “I have always loved nature, and the idea of being a park ranger began when I was very little,” she
recalls.

She entered the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as an education major, thinking she would become a teacher. “But, I really wanted to be outside and teach in a different way. I just didn’t know how to go about it at the time.”

After getting married, Kate and her husband packed up for Reno where she graduated from the University of Nevada with a degree in Natural Resource Science, focusing on forestry and range management.

“Trees and cows,” she jokes.

“Growing up in Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon was always a place I thought would be neat to work at. In high school, I went to the new Visitor’s Center to talk with a Bureau of Land Management official. “How can I work here?” I asked her. Ten years later, that same official became Kate’s boss.

During those intervening 10 years, Kate worked summers at Nevada state parks as a seasonal aide. “This was a good start to becoming a Park Ranger, learning people skills, meeting
visitors from all over the world.”

After graduation, she returned to Las Vegas and worked with the Red Rock Canyon Interpretative
Association, now part of the Southern Nevada Conservancy. Two years later, Kate was hired for a permanent part-time position by BLM.

“Being an interpretative ranger is being a “Jack of all trades and master of none,” she explains.
‘I meet people from all over the world and get to introduce them to my Mojave Desert home – and
specifically Red Rock Canyon.

“I get to do this by having general conversations, setting up interpretive table tops with hands-on
items and information, leading guided hikes and presenting at community events.”

Her favorite role is as Environmental Education Facilitator, arranging school field trips and
teacher workshops. “During the last school year, Red Rock Canyon hosted 190 field trips for 9,658
students and 10 workshops for 177 teachers,” she noted.

There are two field trip opportunities in Red Rock Canyon. One is led by rangers and the other
by teachers, who guide students on one of four recommended trails for a nature walk and place-based learning activities, explained Kate.

Ranger-led trips are based on student grade levels and are tied directly with their school curricula
to help teachers meet their classroom requirements. “We try to be a tool in their toolbox to help
teachers meet their educational goals for their students,” said Kate.

“Another program I facilitate is the Naturalist Educator volunteer opportunity. This program
trains assistant hike leaders, tabletop interpreters and hike leaders. There are a number of requirements for each of the positions, the most popular being the assistant hike leader.” she explained.

“A good number of students who come to Red Rock Canyon on field trips have never been here
before. This is a new experience for them, and sometimes new experiences can be scary and exciting at the same time.

“Some are experiencing the landscape of Red Rock Canyon, the flora and fauna, for the first
time. They are learning that as visitors you need to be on your best behavior as you would be when
others come to their homes. That’s because this is the home of rabbits, lizards, birds, flowers and
much more.

“Many time students say they will come back to visit with their parents or siblings, and we hope
that they do. But mostly, we have planted a seed; and hopefully it grows, molding that student into
a good steward as an adult and a caretaker of our public lands,” said Kate.

As a naturalist and interpreter, Kate often works with Friends of Red Rock Canyon through its
generous transportation grant program that she emphasizes has “contributed greatly” to getting students here.

“Many schools cannot afford or budget even minimal off-site field trips, leaving teachers to find
alternate ways to get students out to experience the areas in which they live. Many students and
their families don’t travel far from “civilization”because they may not have the means to do so,”
she noted.

“Public transportation does not extend past city limits, leaving much of the public land areas such
as Red Rock Canyon out of reach for them to experience on their own. But, Friends of Red Rock
approved funding for 60 buses during the last school year. That’s almost a third of the number
of field trips that came out. Without that funding,these students would not have had the opportunity to experience Red Rock Canyon.”

Kate has had some kind of relationship with Friends since she started working at Red Rock
Canyon 23 years ago.

“The organization and its volunteers have always been willing to help when needed. As all the
Friends know, our common mission is to preserve, conserve and protect the canyon for current
and future generations; not only the human kind, but also the critter and flowery kind” she said.
“Friends of Red Rock Canyon as an organization and its members make that happen every day and I am so grateful for what they do directly for me and for the entire conservation area.”

Finding resources always is a challenge, especially in an era of budget constraints, but one program
– Every Kid in a Park, launched in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Interior, has allowed Kate
to increase outreach especially to fourth graders.

The program allows them and their parents to visit public lands without paying a fee.
“I have been able to go into the schools and share information on our Nevada State mammal,
the Desert Bighorn Sheep.

One such visit inspired the 4th grade class at Garehime Elementary to make a proposal to a Las Vegas City Councilman that Las Vegas have its own city animal. These fourth graders, soon to be fifth graders, will make their proposal to the Las Vegas City Council in September. “

Through the program, Red Rock Canyon and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Areas have
issued more than 8,000 free passes. That presents more than 20 percent of Clark County School
District’s fourth-grade population.

“Many days, I take working at Red Rock Canyon for granted, I think about what I have to do
for the day, how much I need to get done,” Kate confesses. “But then, there are those days that I get
out of my car and I can smell the cliff rose and see the sun shine on the sandstone escarpment and realize that I am very blessed to come to work every day and experience the beauty that surrounds me.

“The day is always better at Red Rock Canyon.”

Even on a particular Sunday when she is officially off work, but volunteering as Tom Lisby’s assistant trail leader, sharing the Calico Hills with a new group of amazed visitors.

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Mailing Address:

Friends of Red Rock Canyon
1000 Scenic Drive
Las Vegas, NV  89161

Phone: (702) 515-5360 

Fax: (702) 515-5388 

Email: info@friendsofredrock.org

All Rights Reserved – Friends of Red Rock Canyon – 2018

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