Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Many Aspects of Volunteering

We often receive inquiries which say simply, "I want to volunteer at Mount Rainier National Park," and while it's wonderful to hear from people who want to participate, volunteer opportunities are as diverse as the people who apply. It is helpful if potential volunteers categorize their areas of interest. Here are just a few ways our volunteers serve the Park, selected from field projects done in 2014. (Uncredited NPS photos: Kevin Bacher)




NPS photo: Curt Jacquot











NPS photo: Lou Whiteaker



Photo: Ed Hunds
NPS photo: Crow Vecchio
Photo: Kathleen Bogaards










Of course these aren't the only ways you can volunteer. When you contact us, be sure to list your specialties and interests so we can find the right place for you!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March Background Photo



The Park's March background photo features a winter sunrise photo of the Mountain taken from Naches Peak by volunteer JD Hascup. Many thanks to JD for sharing this lovely photo under a Creative Commons license.

Background photos are available on the Park's website for download in a variety of screen sizes. If you would like to download one, please visit http://go.usa.gov/FzuQ.

If you are interested in submitting a photo for consideration for a future background photo, please e-mail to Patti_Wold(at)nps.gov. Send only photos which you have taken yourself.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Volunteers Needed!

Are you serious about volunteering? Here are three less-than-glamorous volunteer opportunities which nevertheless service Mount Rainier National Park's needs.


Adopt-a-Highway

We are still looking for volunteers to assist with the April 25th Adopt-a-Highway litter patrol. We will gather at Tahoma Woods three miles east of Elbe at 10 AM for a brief orientation. If you are interested in participating, contact Crow at Petrina_Vecchio(at)partner.nps.gov by April 15.

Uniform Cache Organizers

We're looking for a few volunteers to organize the uniform cache in the Warehouse. Uniforms need to be sorted by size and folded neatly for storage.

Garbage Collection/Maintenance

Ron Hastings would like one volunteer to help with garbage collection and general maintenance. Volunteer will ride with Ron and/or drive a 2-ton truck a few days each week. Some physical labor is involved. Contact Ron through Dale_Harvard(at)nps.gov for further details.

Friday, March 20, 2015

George B. Hartzog Jr. Award Nominee: Russ Gibbs

Mount Rainier National Park would also like to congratulate Russ Gibbs on his nomination for the Hartzog Award. We would like to acknowledge Russ' excellent qualifications and enduring service at this time.

NPS photo
Brief Summary of Exceptional Accomplishments: Russ Gibbs has been a devoted volunteer working at Mount Rainier National Park since December, 2001.  To date, he has contributed and documented over 8,200 hours of his time assisting multiple programs within the Division of Natural and Cultural Resources at Mount Rainier National Park, and providing valuable information to the park regarding status of park infrastructure during winter closures, and reporting unusual activities year round.  His contribution to Mount Rainier National Park includes winter patrols; spotted owl, pika, harlequin duck, amphibian, and snow tracking surveys; removal of telephone wire on the east side of the park; and providing information on unusual activities such as the location of deployed cameras and poached elk within park boundaries.

Magnitude of Work: What was the extent of the work accomplished? What made the work, project, contribution, or program exceptional? Was the program well-managed and efficient? In what ways did the nominee demonstrate creativity or originality?

He began his volunteer time in 2001 conducting harlequin duck surveys in the Ohanapecosh area including the Muddy Fork and associated tributaries providing valuable information on the abundance of these rare ducks in Mount Rainier National Park.  Surveys continue to date.  In 2002, he began providing winter patrols to Ohanapecosh, located in the southeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park, when the park started closing Ohanapecosh facilities and road access during the winter months.  Patrols were, and still are, performed via ski or snowshoe and provide valuable information about the status of buildings and unusual activity in the Ohanapecosh area.  Over the years, he has reported flooded buildings, broken gate locks, and heavy snow loading.  All information that likely wouldn’t have been discovered by park staff until spring opening, potentially leading to increased damage.

In 2005, Russ’s volunteer time expanded when he joined the owl crew conducting spotted owl surveys.  Many years due to funding, Russ has filled the 4th positions in a crew of four, allowing for completion of required compliance surveys and increased demographic surveys. In 2007, Russ began conducting amphibian surveys under the direction of the aquatics staff.  He follows established protocols, and visits sites multiple times a year, adding to the park’s knowledge about the distribution and abundance of all amphibian’s, focusing on the rare western toad, with only 13 known breeding spots in the park.  In addition, Russ has been a valuable resource and trainer for the Amphibian Citizen Science program at Mount Rainier.  He has reliably led new, inexperienced staff and youth to sites that are challenging to access to survey for amphibians.  Finally in 2009, Russ began conducting pika survey’s when the park identified the need to track pika populations in response to climate change.  He works independently and as needed with the wildlife crew, following established protocols.  He has also accompanied staff to assist with field work associated with lake surveys, and weather station maintenance, which would not have occurred due to a lack of field partner.

These days, you will find Russ hiking in the park conducting a wide variety of wildlife surveys, varying based on the time of year.  When describing Russ’s skills to new staff, we like to mention if you looked at a map of Mount Rainier National Park and recorded all of Russ’s hikes, the entire east side of the park would be covered.  He has been the “eyes in the field” for east side of Mount Rainier National Park for over a decade.  In addition to his survey efforts, his discovery of a fresh elk kill site within the park boundaries eventually led to the successful conviction of the responsible party.

Meeting the Mission: How has the volunteer, group, or program improved conditions for the park facilities or operations, resources and/or visitors? How did the nominee support the NPS mission?

Russ’s contribution to wildlife surveys during all times of year contribute the park’s knowledge of the distribution and abundance of spotted owls, all amphibians, harlequin ducks, and any notable wildlife (via snow tracking surveys).  We don’t have the year round staff to accomplish many of the surveys Russ completes.  His support of the Amphibian Citizen Science program allows relatively new SCA staff to gain access to challenging survey locations, which would otherwise be crossed off the list due access.

As mentioned above, he has been the “eyes in the field” for the east side of Mount Rainier National Park for over a decade.  He has helped identify flooded building, broken gate locks, and unusual heavy snow loading in the Ohanapecosh area during winter closures.  His constant presence in the backcountry has provided information on elk poaching and placed cameras in the field

Challenges: Describe any challenges the nominee may have faced.

Russ hikes in all weather conditions and in challenging terrain, mostly off trail.  He is a solid addition to any field team.

Partnerships: How did the project or program build partnerships or boost public interest? Please explain.

Russ’s true passion for the outdoors, wildlife, and Mount Rainier Nation Park is obvious by his enthusiasm to always help and his constant engagement.  Just last week, Russ gave a presentation at the Packwood museum describing the various surveys occurring within the park and rationale behind them. 

Hartzog Award Winners, Regional Level

Update: Jim and Carol Miltimore have been named as winners of the Hartzog Award at the Regional level. Their nomination now moves forward for consideration for the National Award!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

George B. Hartzog Jr. Award Nominees: Jim and Carol Miltimore

Mount Rainier National Park is pleased to announce the nomination of Jim and Carol Miltimore for the George B. Hartzog Jr. Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service.

Brief Summary of Exceptional Accomplishments: Compiling a “brief” summary of Jim and Carol Miltimore’s exceptional accomplishments is nearly impossible. Here are some of the most significant projects they’ve contributed to, since beginning as volunteers in August of 2005, accumulating 30,125 hours of service (and counting) between them in just ten years:

NPS photo/Crow Vecchio
Amphibian Surveys, collecting and documenting amphibians in wilderness wetlands throughout the park.
Archeological Surveys, documenting human presence going back 9,500 years, and organizing records.
Curatorial Collection, cataloguing tens of thousands of photographs and documents, and helping to conserve the park’s specimen collection.
Geological Surveys, assisting researchers to collect data about the park’s glaciers and rivers, and helping to enter scientific data during the winter.
Invasive Plant Removal, identifying and removing exotic plans along park roads.
Meadow Roving, educating visitors about the importance of staying on trails in our fragile subalpine meadows.
Nordic Patrol, patrolling wilderness areas for visitor safety on skis and snowshoes during the winter.
Revegetation, assisting park crews to plant native plants in areas being restored; and also collecting seeds and helping to propagate them in the park’s greenhouse.
Roadside Cleanup, collecting litter along a stretch of adopted highway near Park Headquarters.
Search and Rescue, assisting with several events, including heroic actions to protect park staff and visitors during the fatal shooting of Park Ranger Margaret Anderson.
Trail Construction, repairing and maintaining trails all over the park, and helping to rebuild a trail wiped out by flooding.
Wilderness Cleanup, removing deteriorating cables and wires from backcountry locations.
Wilderness Patrol, conducting inventory, monitoring, and maintenance of backcountry trails and campsites.

Magnitude of Work: What was the extent of the work accomplished? What made the work, project, contribution, or program exceptional? Was the program well-managed and efficient? In what ways did the nominee demonstrate creativity or originality?

Here are a few notable examples:

Amphibian Surveys: In 2008, the park initiated a “citizen science” program, recruiting community volunteers to help gather important data on amphibian populations, ephemeral wetlands, and human-caused sound intrusions throughout the park. Jim and Carol were two of the first to sign up, and have participated annually, capturing amphibians in hip waders and mosquito netting miles from park roads and trails. With their help, the program has documented amphibian breeding in an average of 50 sites per year.

Archeological Surveys: Jim and Carol have sifted through layers upon layers of sediment at several research sites in the park, helping to collect evidence of human occupation going back 9,500 years. During the winter, they’ve turned that hard work and attention to detail to our archeological records, helping to organize records from a backlog of more than 200 sites.

Curatorial Collection: Jim and Carol have worked for eight years now in the park’s curatorial collection. With their help, we have been able to catalogue more than 35,000 photographs and 20,000 archival documents per year, many times our capacity in a typical year without their help.

Search and Rescue: Mount Rainier hosts more than a million and a half visitors per year in an environment that can be harsh and dangerous at times. Jim and Carol have helped with innumerable Search and Rescue missions, both as members of the park’s wilderness patrol staff in summer and as members of the Nordic Patrol in winter. Most notably, on New Year’s Day 2012, when a gunman fired on two park rangers half a mile below the busy Paradise Visitor Center, killing ranger Margaret Anderson, and then escaped into the forest, Jim and Carol helped round up more than a hundred visitors and staff to take shelter, in spite of the obvious risks of doing so out in the open with the gunman still at large.

Trail Construction: After major floods in November of 2006 destroyed roads, trails, and campgrounds throughout Mount Rainier National Park, Jim and Carol pitched in to help rebuild, and helped reconstruct the Glacier Basin Trail along with volunteers from the Washington Trails Association and Mount Rainier National Park Associates. They continue to work almost every weekend during the summer months, on projects throughout the park, and have become mentors and leaders for new volunteers.

Wilderness Patrol: Jim and Carol’s primary duty during the summer months is to conduct patrols of Mount Rainier’s extensive trail system. They are responsible for inventory, monitoring, and maintenance of backcountry campsites and toilets. Several years ago, Jim discovered that old wires buried in the wilderness above Sunrise contained lead, and needed to be removed to protect that environment. He and Carol spent several summers working to remove thousands of feet of wires and cables.

These are just a few of the projects Jim and Carol have worked on. They are deeply embedded in the park’s programs, and when something needs to get done, they invariably step forward to help. They serve on the park’s safety committee and assist with staff training. Between the two of them, Jim and Carol have contributed 30,125 hours of service to Mount Rainier National Park over the past ten years, which works out to more than 1500 hours apiece, on average, every year. There is virtually no volunteer project at Mount Rainier to which the Miltimores have not made a significant and substantial contribution.

Meeting the Mission: How has the volunteer, group, or program improved conditions for the park facilities or
operations, resources and/or visitors? How did the nominee support the NPS mission?

The details described above in the “Magnitude of Work” section should explain, more than adequately, the degree to which the Miltimores’ tireless efforts have improved facilities and operations, aided visitors, and expanded our understanding of park resources. Recapping a few of the more notable examples:

Improving Facilities: See the Miltimores’ work to repair, maintain, and rebuild park trails, which included major contributions toward rebuilding and reopening the Glacier Basin Trail after it was wiped out by flooding in 2006. See also their work as wilderness patrol rangers, and their ongoing work in the park’s curatorial collections.

Natural and Cultural Resources: See the Miltimores’ work on park archaeological crews, and their assistance with citizen science programs surveying amphibians, wildflowers, glaciers, and stream aggradation, all of which have greatly enhanced our understanding of the effects of climate change at Mount Rainier.

Visitor Services: See the Miltimores’ work with wilderness and meadow patrol, but also, and especially notably, their assistance with Nordic Patrol and Search and Rescue, including their heroic efforts during the January 2012 shooting of Ranger Margaret Anderson.

Jim and Carol Miltimore have dedicated themselves to the mission of the National Park Service more completely than anyone else I know. They have made it their life’s work, and do so tirelessly and without expectation of compensation or reward. They are an inspiration to everyone on our staff.

Challenges: Describe any challenges the nominee may have faced.

As is the case everywhere, Mount Rainier National Park has too much to do and too few resources with which to do it. The maintenance backlog grows ever larger, and budgets grow ever smaller. Meanwhile, staff is constantly changing, with new supervisors, new initiatives, and new priorities every year. It is a measure of the Miltimores’ enduring dedication that they have continued to find new ways to remain a critical part of the park’s programs, even as the names, faces, and priorities have changed.

Of course, each of the projects Jim and Carol have taken on have involved challenges of their own. Over the year, they have become experts at trail construction, and now often take the lead in trail repair projects. The wilderness cleanup project, which resulted in the removal of hundreds of feet of abandoned cable from park wilderness areas, was their own idea and implementation. Their contributions during Search and Rescue events have involved enormous challenges, overcome by courageous leadership.

Partnerships: How did the project or program build partnerships or boost public interest? Please explain.

Much of the volunteer work that happens at Mount Rainier National Park happens in partnership with community groups. Jim and Carol Miltimore have worked with, or as part of, many of these groups as they have conducted their volunteer work at Mount Rainier. Examples include the following:

Mount Rainier National Park Associates: MRNPA recruits volunteers and leads projects at Mount Rainier once a month from April or May through September or October. Jim and Carol participate in almost all of their projects, maintaining trails, planting native plants, and removing invasive species.

Student Conservation Association: SCA led the flood recovery effort following massive floods in November 2006. Jim and Carol worked with SCA crew leaders to rebuild the Glacier Basin Trail and sections of the Wonderland Trail, among other projects. They also work under SCA leadership to conduct amphibian surveys.

University of Washington: Researchers at UW initiated a Citizen Science project in 2013 to survey flowering plants and the date and location of their bloom. The Miltimores have completed the training and participated in this program, adding to our understanding of the effects of climate change at Mount Rainier.

Washington Ski Touring Club: WSTC leads the Nordic Patrol efforts at Mount Rainier, and Jim and Carol have served notably as members of their group, assisting with weekly operations during the winter and with several major search and rescue events.

Washington Trails Association: WTA is a major partner in recruiting and leading public volunteers on trail work throughout the park. Jim and Carol participate almost every weekend during the summer with these projects, and have earned leadership roles within the organization.

Washington’s National Park Fund: WNPF works tirelessly to promote Mount Rainier National Park and its needs, and to raise funds to support them. Jim and Carol Miltimore have volunteered their time to contribute to several promotional videos produced by WNPF, beginning with flood recovery efforts in 2007 and continuing most recently with a film currently in development for release this spring.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Early Openings and Volunteer Positions

Most of you will already be aware that there was very little snow at Mount Rainier National Park this last winter. That means that a lot of activities will be resuming earlier than usual, and therefore, we will need early-season volunteers to help with spring opening trail projects, rover patrols and so on. If you've participated in any projects previously, please contact your former supervisor to see what's on the agenda. If you'd like to become involved in volunteer activities, drop a note to Kevin_Bacher(at)nps.gov. Please specify what your areas of interest are, and don't forget to include your name, address, email address, phone number and dates of availability.

Also please note that two positions we have advertised through Volunteer.gov will be closing next week. If you are interested in serving as a RAVEN (Emergency Roadside Assistance) or as the Longmire Stewardship Campground Host, be sure to get your application in now!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Earth Day Week Litter Patrol

It's been three years since Mount Rainier's Volunteers adopted the two-mile stretch of SR 706 from milepost 2 to milepost 4 east of Elbe. You may recognize this as the section of highway which includes the Park's Tahoma Woods Headquarters. During those three years, we have partnered with the Washington State Department of Transportation, and in exchange for keeping the area clean of litter, Volunteers are acknowledged by a state sign at either end of the "beat." This publicity is good for the Park and for the Volunteer Program, and that's why once again, we are turning to you to ask for help.

As part of our contract with the state, we must complete a litter pickup in April, an event which coincides (more or less) with Earth Day. This year's patrol is scheduled for Saturday, April 25th starting at 10 AM. Depending on the number of volunteers we have turn out, we will have the job done between noon and 2 PM. Volunteers who have not already done so will need to watch a short training video which features a very young and goofy Bill Nye ("the Science Guy"). The video can be found on the DoT's website at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/operations/adoptahwy/

Here's your chance to benefit both the Park and the community, and to help increase public awareness of the Volunteer program. We need one dozen volunteers for the job! Bags, gloves, safety vests and long-armed grabbers will be provided. Contact Crow at petrina_vecchio(at)partner.nps.gov for more information. RSVP no later than April 15. Please join us!

What's Your Five Year Plan? Volunteer for Your National Parks!

Golden Gate National Parks recently worked with student volunteers at a local college to put together a video on the value of volunteering. Millennials, take notice -- this one's for you!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Volunteers: Share Your Story for the Park Service Centennial!

Did you know that the National Park Service will be 100 years young next year? That's 100 years of inspiring people from all over the world with the most extraordinary landscapes and historical events our country has to offer!

In the twelve years I've served with the Volunteer Program at Mount Rainier, I've learned that almost everyone I encounter has a story related to this Mountain. I hear them every time someone calls to ask about volunteering. They tell me about the time they went hiking at Paradise, or the bear they met at Summerland. They have a passion for this place. Sometimes that connection goes back generations. "My family has been camping at Ohanapecosh since my grandfather was a boy," they'll say; or, "My grandmother's ashes are scattered near Round Pass."

My experience is no different. I grew up in love with the natural world, but it was a trip to Crater Lake National Park as a child that sparked in me a sense of awe for wild places. A high school teacher who'd been a seasonal ranger at Crater Lake encouraged me to pursue a job with the National Park Service. When I found my way to Mount Rainier as a seasonal ranger in 1994, I also met my future wife, fell in love hiking to Indian Bar and gazing at stars on Backbone Ridge, and proposed at Ohanapecosh. Countless wilderness adventures have deepened my love for this place and for the National Park Service that protects it, and for the people who help, whether they wear the uniforms of paid employees, volunteers, or park partners.

Now, there's a way to share your story with others! The National Park Service has set up a Google site to capture people's stories. I'd love for them to include the experiences of park volunteers! What inspired you to give back? How has volunteering deepened your love for national parks?

Here's a link to the Share Your Story Google site. I look forward to reading what you have to say!

https://sites.google.com/a/nps.gov/share-your-story/home?pli=1