Joining Red Top Mountain State Park’s team two years ago, Serella Savenko is currently serving as the Acworth venue’s interpretive ranger.
“I originally started as a guest enjoying the trails and programs, then my kids and I volunteered with the Friends of Red Top group to get my children excited about volunteering, charity and community,” she said. “When a position opened up to work at the park and help do programs, I applied.
“As an interpretive ranger, my purpose is to engage guests and help them understand and get excited about all aspects of local nature and history. In order to create this interest and understanding, I create, plan and execute all sorts of programs at the park, including guided hikes, tours, field trips, festivals and our iron pours. We love programs that engage guests through experiences, so we work to have programs that activate different senses and have hands-on components.”
Name: Serella Savenko
Occupation (title): Interpretive ranger
City of residence: Acworth
Family: Partner and two children
Education: Master of Teaching Social Studies, Bachelor of Sociology
The Daily Tribune News (DTN): What do you enjoy most about your work?
Serella Savenko (SS): I adore the moments when guests get really excited and interested in a new idea or skill. I really enjoy creating new programs and interacting with guests during our programs.
DTN: What is your favorite program at the park and why?
SS: I honestly don't think I have a favorite program. I get really excited about a lot of stuff:
I love plants, animals, rocks, being outdoors, communicating, sharing ideas, helping others learn and trying new skills. Everyone loves meeting our Animal Ambassadors, learning their stories, and gaining knowledge of native and invasive species. Our History Hikes and Edible/Medicinal Moseys are very popular too, as well as our … walks and our paddling programs.
We recently had a lot of fun at our Pioneer Skills: Apothecary program, where guests got to learn about, make and try some different pioneer remedies, such as salves, poultices, tinctures and teas. Earlier in the year, we also had a special off-trail hike called Meeting of the Mines, where guests got to explore and learn about Red Top's iron-mining history from a different perspective.
I am really excited for our Iron Pours to be starting up again. Our old furnace got sick, and it was decided that the best course of action was to get a new, more efficient furnace. That furnace is all ready for our new Iron Pour season. We will have a big kick off Harvest Iron Pour on Saturday, Oct. 19. Guests will be able to discover pioneer life, play games, watch us pour molten iron, learn about local iron mining history, and even purchase a scratch block to take home their own iron-poured art work.
DTN: What do you find to be the most interesting fact/story about Red Top's history?
SS: Learning about the lives of the pioneers who had homes here is fascinating to me. Lake Allatoona wasn't created until the mid-1900s. It used to be rivers and streams, so the whole landscape, homesites, access water, etc. would all have been different. And the different ways pioneers built their cabins is amazing; did you know metal was scarce, so they made wooden nails for most of the pioneer era? The chinking pioneers used in their cabins is very interesting too; it was an important part of their heating and A/C. And mentioning pioneer home comforts, we even still have some pioneer chimneys at the park.
The way the pioneers mined iron blows my mind; effectively, pioneers used pressure-washing to get iron out of the hillsides here. And the furnaces they built to smelt the iron were huge; before the lake was made, there was a furnace under what is now Bethany Bridge. Bethany Bridge also has a gorgeous family of osprey who come and nest on top of it every year.
The osprey usually show up in spring, stay all summer, then head to the coast in autumn. We have some wonderful birds, plants, mammals, fungi, reptiles, amphibians, lichens and bugs here at the park as well. There is a native passion vine and native orchids. We have foxes, raccoons, possum, and white-tailed deer, giant puffball mushrooms, Amber jelly, wood ear, stinking false oyster, and earthstar mushrooms, barred owls, great blue herons and kingfishers, fence lizards, Eastern hognose, spring peepers, and mud turtles … usnea, sourwood, milkweed, and longleaf pine, Luna moths, scorpions, spiny orb-weavers, monarch butterflies and millipedes that smell like cherry cola.
DTN: What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?
SS: I keep learning and exploring every day. I learn new skills, research new answers and try to create a loving, curious, kind, motivated family.
DTN: If you were not in your line of work, what would you like to do?
SS: Be an artist, storyteller or performer.
DTN: How would you describe yourself in three words?
SS: Enthusiastic, engaging, excited
DTN: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
SS: I think meeting me is the surprising thing, and after you meet me, people are less surprised by my life. I did once — accidentally — do the splits while dancing on stilts at the Renaissance Festival; it was muddier than I thought that day.
DTN: What is the best advice you have ever received?
SS: Learn and practice new skills; pursue the tasks you love and figure out how to make a living from those passions.
DTN: What do you like to do in your spare time?
SS: I am a den leader in my kids' Cub Scout Pack, so I do a lot of Scouting stuff in my spare time. I also like to garden, draw and tell stories with my children. I read, a lot. I also love animals and enjoy meeting new critters and learning about them. We have also been practicing our balance boards and our slackline in our yard recently. So far, I'm pretty bad at them both, but it is a lot of fun.
DTN: Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
SS: I love to be outdoors, so parks and community outdoor spaces are a favorite. Red Top is, well, tops, because I love to go exploring with my family and friends. Little historic shopping areas are fantastic too, with all sorts of shops and cool areas to explore. As well as libraries; the smell of books and the mazes of shelves where you can … get lost in a million paper worlds is so comforting.