GLASGOW — Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series about college interns working during the summer at Mammoth Cave National Park.
Logan Steenbergen of Glasgow is following in her grandfather’s footsteps in more ways than one.
Steenbergen, a Western Kentucky University junior, is studying elementary education and is spending her summer working as a cave tour guide at Mammoth Cave National Park.
That’s reminiscent of her grandfather, Bobby Steenbergen, who was a longtime teacher and coach and who is also spending his summer working as a cave guide at the national park.
“It’s been a great experience,” Logan said about working with her grandfather. “I didn’t know how it was going to be at first, but I have really enjoyed it.”
She says her grandfather has tried to teach her the ropes of being a guide.
“It’s definitely been an advantage to have him around,” she said.
Logan makes the third generation of the Steenbergen family to work at Mammoth Cave. Her father, Derron, also worked at the national park, as did her mother, Krista, and her aunt, Ginny.
“I’m quite proud of the fact that my son, my daughter and my daughter-in-law worked here,” said Bobby, also of Glasgow. “So there has been a long line of Steenbergens to work here and it has enhanced us all.”
Bobby began working at Mammoth Cave in 1977 and worked there until the late 1980s. He took most of the 1990s off, but returned to the park in 1999.
“It has eased me into retirement from teaching, because I feel like I’m still teaching. This is approaching about 29 seasons that I’ve been here. It’s been very rewarding to me and I’m glad to share this with my family, especially my granddaughter.”
This marks Logan’s third season at the national park and her first season as a cave tour guide.
Bobby believes working at Mammoth Cave is a valuable learning experience.
“I have real strong feelings for the this park, but I also recognize what it does to young people,” he said. “Mammoth Cave is a great learning tool for any occupation that you tend to want to go into.”
Many professions require employees to have strong backgrounds in technology, and while that is good, Bobby said young people also need to have good communication skills.
“I can’t think of any other place any better than Mammoth Cave National Park (to learn those skills),” he said.
Logan agrees that working at Mammoth Cave has been beneficial as she learns to become a teacher.
“A lot of the things that I’m learning here and that I’m having to use with my tour groups are the skills I’m learning in my classrooms and that I’m doing with my students,” she said.
While it is rare to have so many generations of one family to work at Mammoth Cave, it does happen, said Vickie Carson, public information officer for the national park.
Family members can’t supervise one another due to the national park’s ethics code, but they can work in the same area at Mammoth Cave, she said.
“I think people who grew up in the park as a child of a ranger or a park worker, they become so familiar with the park that many of them become really interested in it,” Carson said.