Herman couldn’t do it without his staff and many volunteers | TheUnion.com

Herman couldn’t do it without his staff and many volunteers

Possibly the most exciting part of the new tour will be the illusion of going down into the mine, created through computerized special effects technology.
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Jeff Herman, Supervising Ranger of the Empire Mine State Historic Park, watches over the more than 800 acres of our local park, staff and a healthy group of over 200 volunteers.

Herman raved about his volunteers, who provide thousands of hours of service per year as docents, in administration, facility, grounds, maintenance and trails.

“Without them, we’d have to hire at least six extra paid staff to do the work that they do,” he said.

For example, the “Over the Hill Gang”, mostly retired men who know construction, work every Tuesday and Thursday, supervised by staff, rain or shine, on projects that need redoing around the park. They have just remodeled the gift shop to three times its previous size.

The ‘Rose Group’ propagates and sells the old variety roses from the gardens and docents lead tours and dress up to portray historical figures such as the Bourne Family, former owners of the mine.

Once a year, Jeff and his staff put on aprons and treat the volunteers and spouses, (over 300 last July), to a delicious dinner of Tri tip, chicken, and all the trimmings.

“We don’t allow them to get up, unless it is to receive an award. We serve them and we all have a great time,” Herman said.

“They’re like a big extended family,” Herman said. “They have a lot of fun but they get so much work done and save the taxpayers a heck of a lot of money.”

Herman is very excited about a new program he created for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders which puts kids into a ‘hands on’ experience of gold mining and began last fall.

The children are given a job title, such as miner or mucker and have the chance to use a hand chisel and small sledgehammer while they ‘dig for gold’. They even eat a child sized ‘pastie’ for lunch, the traditional meat filled pastry the Cornish miners ate so many years ago.

Possibly the most exciting part of the new tour will be the illusion of going down into the mine, created through computerized special effects technology. The kids sit in the manskip, the toboggan like contraption that the miners rode down under ground each day. The lights dim and suddenly the walls seem to move by, the wind blows, the manskip vibrates and creaks.

This is sure to thrill kids, Univeral Studios, style.

There’s even a small quiz at the end and the students are showing a high success rate of learning. “They’re having a blast,” said Herman.

He’s looking for people to help with the ‘hands on’ program, as tour guides, dressed up in costume, or to wear a yellow vest, a volunteer more behind the scenes. He hopes to have this program open to the public soon.

How did he come up with this program? “I had to think like a kid,” Herman smiled.

Herman, who is married with two teenage daughters, has been with the park service for 25 years and Empire Mine for ten years. “I love it here. This is one of the jewels of the State Park system,” he said.

The beauty of the Empire Mine park grounds creates a perfect setting for many local weddings and events. The revenue generated from these events and the revenue from the gift shop all gets used for park maintenance.

Late this summer, Herman hopes to break ground on an underground tour project. Riders wearing hard hats will be able to ride a tram to experience what it was like to go underground into the mine, firsthand.

“I’m very excited about this project,” Herman said.

Speaking of the way that the different law enforcement and fire agencies work together in the county he said: “We know each other and are used to planning and working together. It’s real special to see that. If we had a problem in the county, we could move quickly and smoothly together to get it solved.”

For fun for the whole family, don’t miss the Miner’s Picnic, a once a year event, Saturday, June 7, 2003, 10:30am till 4:30pm. Food, games and entertainment add to the atmosphere of living history

throughout the park.

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