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From the Field: Angela Crenshaw

photo of visitor center building from marshy land nearby

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park; by Stephen Badger

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center, which opened in March 2017, has educated hundreds of thousands of guests on the life and legacy of an incredible Maryland leader. Such a place itself requires passionate leadership, which it has clearly found in Assistant Park Manager Ranger Angela Crenshaw.

photo of Angela Crenshaw standing next to Tubman statue

Ranger Angie Crenshaw; by Stephen Badger

Born in West Virginia, Crenshaw identifies more strongly with her Baltimore roots. “I grew up near Gunpowder Falls State Park,” she says, where she spent many summers developing a passion for the environment and nature.

She received her bachelor’s degree in Economics and Environmental Studies from Washington College, and later earned her master’s degree in Energy and Environmental Policy from the University of Delaware.

Crenshaw got her start at the department in 2008 in Boating Services. She became a Maryland Park Ranger in 2013 and worked at Elk Neck and Gunpowder Falls before being approached to work at Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park.

“There’s really no typical day at work,” she says with a chuckle. Crenshaw is responsible for ensuring the beautiful visitor center is clean, friendly and safe. She also works with fellow rangers to create educational programs and materials celebrating Tubman’s life and work.

The smallest of Maryland’s state parks—17 acres altogether—is unique in many ways. While visitors can make spiritual connections to nature at any park, a trip to Tubman is almost invariably a deeply emotional experience.

“People can learn anything about Harriet Tubman from a book or the internet,” says Crenshaw. “I want each visitor to come here and make a personal connection to her story. I want to light a spark in them so they can leave here feeling inspired that they can accomplish incredible things.”

Ranger Crenshaw describes display to visitor

Ranger Crenshaw with a visitor; by Stephen Badger

She works tirelessly to ensure that every visitor can have what she calls a “hand-over-heart moment” when they are moved by the spirit of the park.

One program especially dear to Crenshaw is Junior Rangers. Young guests who visit the park are given a booklet that helps them engage in the park’s unique stories. Upon its completion, they can be sworn in as Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Junior Rangers. Crenshaw fondly recalls a visit with a 6-year-old girl in a pink tutu who asked to hold her hand as she was sworn in.
Personal moments like this keep her and her team going, as teamwork presents its own challenges when rangers are also stewards of powerful experiences.

“You can’t phone in a Harriet Tubman story. I need to make sure everyone’s minds are where they need to be,” says Crenshaw. “But I always know who to call when I need something.”

Crenshaw welcomes anyone to visit this extraordinary place—a joint national and state park—which is open every day but Christmas, to have their own hand-over-heart experience.

 

Article by Emily Durell—Office of Communications intern. Appears in Vol. 21, No. 4 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, fall 2018.

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