Ranger Allyson Gantt

Meet Ranger Allyson Gantt, Director of Education at Everglades National Park
Allyson GanttTrail Talk
Ranger Allyson Gantt at Everglades National Park

Many people — even from right here in South Florida — are afraid to come out to Everglades National Park. They find the prospect of encountering snakes, mosquitos, and alligators intimidating. I love to hold someone’s hand through their first visit to the park and get them excited about this amazing place.

I take visitors on wet hikes — what we call a slough slog — off the trail and into the sawgrass prairie. I lead visitors through the open marsh into a forest of cypress trees with soft green needles. On late winter afternoons, the angle of the sun makes the light particularly beautiful. With the dark water below and the cypress branches swaying ever so slightly overhead in the breeze, it feels like a magical place.

An alligator lurks in the water surrounded by Cypress trees at Everglades National Park

An alligator lurks among cypress trees at Everglades National Park

NPS Photo / G. Gardner

When Hurricane Irma was bearing down on us last fall, it was pretty intimidating. But although our human-built facilities did take a hit from the storm, the natural environment is incredibly resilient. Our mangroves took a real beating, but that’s what they’re there for — to catch the wind, slow the storm surge, and protect the inland areas. Our plants and animals are adapted for this and began to recover right away.

The best part is, we really didn’t have to cancel any of our educational programs. Each school year, we welcome about 14,000 4th, 5th, and 6th graders.

For nearly 80% of them, it’s their very first visit to a national park. They get to explore different habitats, canoe, camp, go on a slough slog, or even take a night hike. The kids love walking with their flashlights on the boardwalk at night and seeing the light reflecting from the alligators’ eyes!

Everglades National Park boardwalk

Boardwalk at Everglades National Park

iStock

I hope the kids remember the cool facts they learned about the ecosystem. But mostly I want them to go home with a positive memory of the Everglades. When they grow up, they’ll be the ones making decisions about how to protect this place.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked kids, “Do you realize who owns this park?” And then they are shocked and delighted when I tell them that they do! They think that’s so cool. I love that I get to introduce them to their park.

Comments

We are coming to the Everglades mid February. I’d be very interested in the bog walk - should we bring good rain boots? Can you provide a link to the spring hikes you offer?
Linda
Laatsch
Here's the link to the Ranger Programs. Since our programs run mainly from December through March, all the details should be up in early December, if not sooner. https://www.nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/rangerprograms.htm
Allyson
Gantt
When driving across ‘Alligator Alley’ a few years ago and stopped at the Shark Valley site. We rented bikes there for a 15 mile round trip loop to the great viewing tower south of the highway. Trams also use this route. We were leery of the many, many alligators we cycled by; they were sunning themselves right next to the paved trail to the tower. We cycled by them, only feet away. It was one of the most unusual bicycle have ever done! If you’re ever there, do this ride!
Bayard
Elmer
wife and I just recently retired and we are adding a visit to the everglades to our bucket list. Never been there, sounds fascinating.
jeff
guddat
I love your attitude Allyson! Thank you so much for all of the work you do.
Cynthia
Jones
Thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for the Everglades, especially with the school groups. What is being done about the non native boa constrictors? Do you also tell them about releasing animals into the wild that do not belong?
Kathleen
Jones

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