Anyone wondering how today's youth view the national parks would have gotten some insights if they visited Bryce Canyon National Park recently. They might have encountered three sisters from West Virginia who have amassed more than 700 Junior Ranger badges and patches between them.
The Sobinovsky sisters from Martinsburg, West Virginia, caused quite a stir when they came into the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center. The girls turned the heads of visitors and staff as they marched up to the information desk wearing vests pinned with literally hundreds of Junior Ranger badges and patches.
The Sobinovsky sisters have dedicated a large portion of their young lives to visiting national parks and participating in the Junior Ranger program. Twelve-year-old Maria has been at it the longest, and the Bryce Canyon Junior Ranger Badge she earned on June 4 brought her total to 304 badges. Her twin sisters, 9-year-old Gina and Lisa, have each earned 220 badges. Maria’s vest weighs a whopping 8 pounds, while Gina’s and Lisa’s vests weigh in at an impressive 6 pounds each.
When Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh asked the girls which national park was their favorite, their reply was, “They’re ALL our favorite!”
Bryce Canyon rangers issue about 10,000 Junior Ranger badges each year to young visitors from nearly every continent. To earn a badge, Junior Rangers must attend an Interpretive Ranger program, complete a few activities in the Junior Ranger Booklet, and collect some litter in the park.
“This summer we completed a Junior Ranger activity book targeting the 3 – 5 age group. Younger family members can now participate with their older siblings and they enjoy earning their own badge,” says park staffer Kathleen Gonder.
The goal of the National Park Service Junior Ranger Program is to connect young people and their families to their national parks and cultivate future generations of park stewards. There are 397 National Park Service sites, and most of them have a Junior Ranger Program.
With all their badges, the Sobinovsky sisters don’t have much farther to go before they will have earned a badge from every National Park Service site. Keep up the hard work, Maria, Gina, and Lisa!
Traveler footnote: Earlier this month three sisters from Indiana showed up at Arches National Park, where they earned their 137th Junior Ranger badge.