MOULTRIE -- Early this week, a group of Hispanic children were treated to a boat ride up Little River in Reed Bingham State Park, just one indication that this culture has begun to enjoy more the many offerings of the park.
Park Ranger Chet Powell said Hispanic participation at the park has shown a steady increase over the past couple of years as they become more a part of the South Georgia communities that they work in.
Hispanics are noted for their festive spirit, and Powell said the park is seeing many Hispanic families coming out to picnic, swim and go boating.
"We've noticed that some come out during the week just to relax after a hard day in the fields. And on the weekends, we see many Hispanic families out here," said Powell.
Powell said of the six covered picnic shelters, half of them on weekends will be occupied by Hispanic families. And he said they enjoy getting up volleyball games for the park's two courts. Wednesdays and weekends tend to be the biggest days for their participation, he said.
Powell said the park has a small problem, though, that relates to communications.
"It's simply about following the rules," he said, noting that some of the Hispanics don't understand about the park pass and rules regarding boating and jet skis.
Powell said he is seeking help in communicating these rules.
"We're working on signs in Spanish to help out, and maybe a brochure in Spanish would be a good idea," he said.
For many Hispanics, disposable income is a new concept as they earn many more dollars in Colquitt County agriculture than they knew in their homeland.
"They want to spend it on things they've never had," said Rolando Licea, coordinator of La Estrella del Sur, the area's Hispanic newspaper published by The Moultrie Observer and The Tifton Gazette.
Powell said he's noticed that some Hispanics have purchased boats and jet skis.
"And they need to know how to operate them safely in this setting," he said.
"They have large family gatherings out here. Just this past weekend a Hispanic church from Moultrie had a large event out here," said Powell. "They like to use the open-air pavilion (which used to be the beach house.) Some of the non-Hispanic campers stopped by and enjoyed it as well."
Powell said Hispanic participation in sunrise services on Easter has given that event greater dimension "and perhaps more meaning." He said the Rev. Nelson Acosta of Cook County has been involved in these services, and he expects this event to continue to grow.
Powell said Park Superintendent Paul Bradshaw has taken the approach of "warnings" and more effective communications in dealing with some of the issues that arise from park participants, noting that a good public relations approach is usually more effective in addressing compliance to rules rather than just ticketing people.