Site Stewards in Wyoming
Strategy: Balance Your Budget, Be Creative (More with Less), Collaborate in New Ways, Enhance Your Product
Type of attraction: Museum/Historic Site, State Parks
Summary: The Wyoming Division of State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails operates a number of historic sites in Wyoming, and with staff and resources stretched thin it can be difficult to ensure that every site has all the staff it needs.
The Wyoming Division of State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails (SPHST) operates a number of historic sites in Wyoming, and with staff and resources stretched thin it can be difficult to ensure that every site has all the staff it needs. Todd Thibodeau, planning and grants manager at SPHST, notes, "With the downturn in the economy we've had to look elsewhere to pay for things that were previously part of our budget. We've had to look for more grants, and we're also making greater use of volunteers."
In 2008, a creative partnership effort between SPHST, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office resulted in a new site stewards program. Initially the program consisted of having site stewards visit remote historic sites on a periodic basis to take photos and fill out a one-page evaluation report. Based on the success of the initial program it was expanded to include placing site stewards at some of the historic sites without staff. Participating sites are owned and managed by the SPHST, and they have created an RV site with water, electricity and sewer at each of the facilities. Volunteer stewards are recruited and placed at sites by SPHST and the State Historic Preservation Office. Stewards stay at the site in their RV or fifth wheel trailer to provide added security as well as taking on other volunteer responsibilities.
For example, at the Broom Factory at the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site, volunteer stewards use replicas of historic equipment to demonstrate the craft of broom-making. Visitors are invited to try their hand at broom-making and have the opportunity to purchase their finished product. Some stewards agree to live on site for an entire season while others might stay for part of a season. There are four historic sites currently participating in this program and plans are underway to expand this to eight sites including Legend Rock, a remote petroglyph site that has suffered from vandalism because of the lack of an on-site presence.
"The stewards program takes volunteerism at our sites a step beyond the Friends groups that we have had in the past," says Thibodeau. "While our Friends groups attract local residents, the site stewards are often baby boomer retirees from other places who might spend their winter in Arizona or Texas, then come to Wyoming for the summer." Thanks to this new program, Wyoming's state historic sites are better protected and interpreted without incurring the expense of additional staff.