Be the Change: Shane Romain – Advocating for Chico’s Parks and People

Children are the next stewards of our earth,” explains Chico Park Services Coordinator Shane Romain. “If they don’t know about nature, they won’t care about or protect it.” Shane works diligently to “artfully present”, or interpret, the beauty and value of nature in ways both children and adults can connect with and respond to. “Our culture has gotten away from the importance of getting kids outdoors and into nature,” Shane observes. “That’s why family-friendly parks and children-specific play spaces have such an important role in our community.”

While growing up, Shane loved roaming the great outdoors and exploring the canyon near his grandparents’ house in Hillsborough, CA. “I would gather all the stuffed animals in the house,” he recalls, “put them in various places outside, and then take my family on wildlife tours. I always wanted to be a park ranger.” Shane’s dream came true when he became a Chico park ranger after graduating from California State University, Chico. He worked as a ranger for nine years and became Bidwell Park’s chief ranger.

In 2015, Shane’s passion for the parks – and the people who enjoy them – led him to his current position which allows him to do more for Chico’s extensive system of outdoor recreation spaces. As Park Services Coordinator, Shane now directs the preservation and custodianship of these iconic elements of town. For example, Shane, along with a team of volunteers, has launched efforts to renovate the whimsical Caper Acres park. On May 13th, the parks division will host a Fantasy Fun Run, inviting participants to dress in their favorite fairytale costumes and walk or run a one-mile or 5K race. All proceeds will go toward Caper Acres’ renovation. “Renovation is a huge, expensive project,” Shane says, “but it’s essential.”

Shane also helps connect children with the natural world through an outdoor education program at Rancho Esquon in Durham. This working rice farm includes 1,000 acres of restored wetland habitat where children can learn about the importance of wetlands, migration and wildlife-friendly farming. Shane helped establish this program nine years ago, and now approximately 1,000 students visit the habitat each year through school field trips that combine learning about wildlife with understanding where our food comes from.

Two years ago, Shane’s good friend and former professor, John Hooper, asked him to consider returning to Chico State to teach some of the very same courses that Shane took as a student. Dr. Hooper, who has trained many park rangers, says, “Shane knows more about Bidwell Park than anyone and he is a community-oriented person who truly cares about the public good.”

Last semester, Dr. Hooper retired, leaving his natural resources interpretation class to Shane, in addition to the natural resources management class Shane had already been teaching. “It’s an honor and a privilege,” Shane says, “and a little intimidating!” Making the course his own allows Shane to return to the parks, taking students to see, touch and smell natural landscapes – rather than just read about them. Sometimes, Shane’s three-year-old son “leads” the tours, proudly wearing his father’s ranger hat.

In addition to Dr. Hooper and his grandparents, Shane attributes his vocational direction to his father, who took him on camping trips as a child; his “Uncle Reg,” who instilled in him the love of outdoor exploration; and Marilyn Gamette, an outdoor educator who took him under her wing when he interned at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. In Gamette’s words, “Shane’s greatest asset, for the community and as a human being, is his care of family and children. In a world of dysfunctional relationships and broken families, Shane advocates for all families. He notices people – kids and parents. He promotes engaged parenting.” Gamette admires Shane for living these same principles in his own family life through active participation with his wife and son. 

Shane encourages others to make a difference in the community by slowing down, stepping outside of themselves, and considering those around them. “It’s so cliché, but do the right thing,” Shane says with a laugh. He suggests making little changes, like volunteering, picking litter off the ground and smiling at people. “Create a positive environment,” Shane says, “starting with yourself.”  

North State Parent magazine invites you to join us at the 2nd Annual Caper Acres Fantasy Fun Run and Walk

Sycamore Field in Bidwell Park, Chico on Saturday, May 13: Check-in starts at 7am, Run 8.30am. Wear your favorite creative, fairy tale or children’s character costumes. For more info call the Parks office at (530) 896-7800.

The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature community members from the North State who are actively making a difference in community life. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to pn@northstateparent.com.

Jenna Christophersen
About Jenna Christophersen

Jenna Christophersen is a Chico native who loves her community and can never get quite enough of the arts. She supports fostering creativity in any venue, especially as a part of young people’s daily lives.

Comments

  1. Nicole Romain says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article Jenna!

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