National Trails Day is June 2, a perfect opportunity to spend sometime in nature with your family at one of the Williamsburg area’s beautiful parks. As parks superintendent for the City of Williamsburg, Michael VanAudenhove oversees operations at Waller Mill Park as well as the maintenance and upkeep of all 10 city parks.
Q: How did you decide on a career in Parks and Recreation?
Through luck and good fortune. I pursued my first job as a park attendant because I was looking for a job that would allow me to spend time outdoors and give me the opportunity to have a varied work experience. I was already a huge fan of Waller Mill Park. When I was there boating one day, I saw that they were hiring and I thought it would be a great fit for me. I felt that there was a lot that I could do to make the park a great place to visit. Later, when the opportunity to become the park manager arose, I eagerly pursued it and was fortunate enough to get the opportunity. Since then, I have come to love the unique benefits that come with a job in Parks and Recreation. I get to spend much of my time working in beautiful parks, every day brings different tasks and challenges, and I get to see my team’s hard work appreciated by those in the public that visit our parks and attend our events and programs.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working outdoors?
Learning more about the nature around me and developing a deeper understanding of how incredible it is. For example, in passing a spice bush there was a time when seeing a curled-up leaf would have meant to me a dead leaf that needs to be removed from the plant; now I know that likely there is a caterpillar for the spicebush swallowtail inside waiting to develop into a beautiful butterfly.
Q: What do you enjoy about Waller Mill Park?
My first love at Waller Mill Park was kayaking on the lake. I love seeing it change through the seasons. I love walking my dogs around the trails and just being out in nature. My favorite trail is the Lookout Tower Trail. It is our longest and most challenging trail. It has many beautiful places to view the lake along the way and a peaceful shaded walk back through the woods on the back loop of the trail. I also enjoy Redoubt park, which has a great scenic hiking trail as well as great historical importance to the area. College Landing is also another great park with historical significance and is a great place to relax and watch the water or have lunch.
Q: How do you plan to spend National Trails Day?
Luckily, I get to spend every National Trails Day doing something out in nature. This year, we are doing a trash pickup along Airport Road to help keep Waller Mill Park clean. This cleanup not only gets the trash off the roadway but does a lot to prevent trash from running off into the reservoir as well.
Q: What can parents do to get their families outdoors?
Be prepared: Dress for the weather, have bug spray and sunscreen as needed and stay hydrated. Make it a fun experience and something they will want to repeat. Whether you are going for a leisurely paddle on the lake or running one of our trails, being active in parks can be a lot of fun and there truly is something for everyone no matter their size or skill level.