Monday, April 7, 2014

MRNPA work party - Date Corrections

From John Titland:

The first Mount Rainier National Park Associates volunteer trails work party for 2014 will be on Saturday April 26th.  That's 3 weeks away.  There has been no determination yet where we will be working.  Quite a lot of snow has fallen in the last month.  The location of the project will depend on where the some of it has melted out.  We will know the location of the project about a week prior to the event.

If you already plan to attend this first MRNPA work party of the 2014 season, please reply to this email telling me that you are coming and the number of volunteers that you will be bringing with you.  The April MRNPA trails work party is always well attended.  But be advised that MRNPA trails work parties are limited to 30 volunteers, so signing up early may be a good idea.
Due to a scheduling conflict, the date for the August trails work party and weekend campout has been changed.  The date previously published was the weekend of August 9th.  The new date for the trails work party will be Saturday, August 2nd.  The campout will be on the evenings of August 1st and 2nd, with the potluck dinner on Saturday, August 2nd.

Friday, April 4, 2014

MVP - Pete Sabin

Pete and DiAnne Sabin at Mt. Fremont
Our first MVP (Monthly Volunteer Profile) features Pete Sabin. Pete has experience in several volunteer positions in Mount Rainier National Park and in his local community.
Pete’s story begins in 2006 when the Mount Fremont fire lookout was being rebuilt. He had heard from a friend that it would be helpful if someone was there to talk with the public so the carpenters could work without interruption. In Pete's words, “One day in early July I showed up at Sunrise and introduced myself to the lead ranger. Soon I had a new volunteer shirt, had been shown how to use the radio and was on my way to the lookout."

Most of his volunteer time has been as a Meadow Rover at Sunrise. Pete also goes to Mount Fremont and opens the lookout so the public can visit. He has also done some winter volunteering at Paradise, helping with and occasionally leading snowshoe walks. He has also helped out on the new Adopt-a-Highway litter patrol.

Pete is a member of a group of Park "old timers” who make several trips each summer to visit various sites in the Park to document its early history. “Among other things, we’ve visited many old mine sites, proved the existence of a long forgotten trail from Glacier Bridge to Paradise and located the sites of old buildings in the park,” Pete tells us. “My personal charge as part of this group is to focus on the history of the fire lookouts. I’ve been able to collect pictures and obtain stories from people who had been on the lookouts. This is an ongoing project that may always be in 'draft' form.” He has even received a letter from someone stationed at Mt. Fremont in 1943!

Pete’s family has had a lifetime connection to Mt. Rainier. He learned to ski at Paradise and worked on the rope tows while he was in high school. This led to summer jobs for three years as a Fire Control Aide in the Park. His first summer duty was in 1961 when he was stationed at the Gobbler’s Knob lookout. The next two years saw him at the Lake James patrol cabin and then the Mount Fremont lookout. It was during his third summer that he met his future wife, DiAnne, who was working at the Paradise Inn. She is also a park volunteer.

The park volunteer work is fun for Pete. He enjoys spending his time in an area in which he has some expertise. His volunteer work is not limited to the Park, however. He also volunteers in his community. Pete has been a soccer coach, a member of a ballet board, treasurer of a ski team, and president of a local athletic association, in addition to serving seven years on a district school board. He also taught a weekend skiing class for 47 years. Pete currently volunteers as an exercise instructor at a local Y when he is not at Mount Rainier.

~Submitted by Jean Millan, our MVP correspondent

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

MVP - Monthly Volunteer Profile

Who are our volunteers? There are a lot of names you'd recognize immediately, but what about the hundreds of other folks who are giving their time and energy to make the Park a great place to visit? Some of them only put in a few hours each year. Others may never be in the public eye, working instead at a desk, in the bowels of a workshop or out in the field. Wouldn't you like to meet them? Well, you'll have the opportunity soon!

Jean Millan, former campground host at Longmire, will be digging into the files to find people with stories to share: stories about visitor contacts, backcountry adventures or simply why an individual chose to be a volunteer. She will be interviewing people who work in a variety of positions, bringing to light many of the behind-the-scene jobs which help keep the Park operating smoothly and efficiently.

If Jean contacts you and you are willing to participate, YOU may be featured in our new Monthly Volunteer Profile!

If you have any questions or concerns, you may direct them to Kevin_Bacher(at)nps(dot)gov or to Crow, Petrina_Vecchio(at)partner(dot)nps(dot)gov

Friday, March 28, 2014

J-VIPA chosen for Pacific West region's Outstanding Volunteer Service Award as it hosts visitors from Mount Rainier

J-VIPA members and their families reunite with their
Mount Rainier hosts in Tokyo, Japan
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of nominating the Japan Volunteers-in-Parks Association (J-VIPA) to receive a George Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, in recognition of twenty years of partnership with Mount Rainier National Park. I have just learned that J-VIPA was selected as this year's winner for the Pacific West region of the National Park Service in the "group" category, and will be our nominee for the national award! The national award winner will be announced in May.

The news comes, coincidentally, just as I have returned from my own first visit to Japan, where I spent a week with members of J-VIPA, along with my 13-year-old son and twelve others who have served as host families to J-VIPA students here at Mount Rainier over the years. (We called it the "Dream Tour" because we've been dreaming of doing this ever since our partnership started two decades ago!) We toured sights in and around Tokyo and Mt. Fuji, including a wide variety of historical, cultural, and natural wonders that recently led to the designation of Mt. Fuji as a World Heritage Site. We stayed with two different host families, one in Tokyo, the other in Fujikawaguchiko, and visited the Fujisan Club (a local environmental advocacy group) and Oarachi Elementary School, with which Mount Rainier National Park has had an educational exchange for the past several years. We were welcomed with open arms every place we went.

Our group of 14 included current park employees like myself, and people who hosted students in the past and have since retired or moved on to work at other national parks. A highlight of our trip was a reunion attended by almost fifty of the 386 people who've served at Mount Rainier over the past twenty years.

While this was not technically a work trip (no government money was involved and we all traveled on personal leave time), it was clear that we represented Mount Rainier and the National Park Service. A procession of community and education leaders connected with our group to welcome us to Japan, and we exchanged gifts that represented our respective mountains. (Mount Rainier's partnership with Mt. Fuji began way back in 1935 with the exchange of rocks from the summit of our two volcanoes. Rainier's rock is displayed prominently in the Mt. Fuji Visitor Center, while the rock from Mt. Fuji can be seen in the lobby of our Park Headquarters.) I gave a short presentation on Mount Rainier at Oarachi Elementary School, and we were treated to presentations on Mount Fuji by some of the students. As a school project, the students will be sending us some of their favorite photos of Fuji, and we will reply with photos from Mount Rainier.

Volunteers work on a cleanup project at the Fujisan Club
headquarters in Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi, Japan.
Our agenda had included two afternoons of volunteer work, but plans got rearranged at the last minute due to heavy spring snow that made the planned work location (Fifth Station) inaccessible -- something that I, as a volunteer coordinator myself, could readily identify with! Instead, we put in an hour of work cleaning up debris and shoveling snow at a building that had collapsed under the weight of the snow, and spent some time writing up feedback for park managers about facilities and interpretive materials and how they could be improved for international visitors like ourselves.

I also had an opportunity to chat for about an hour with Mio Konishi, an "Active Ranger" (as opposed to one who does paperwork!) at Saiko Lake National Park. They have a very small and underfunded staff, and she's keenly interested in starting a volunteer program and wanted my advice. We talked about the importance of finding good projects with good crew leaders, ways of connecting with appropriate volunteers and volunteer groups, and contingency plans in case of emergencies. Our group, of course, also wanted to come back and volunteer for her!

She also asked me if I could look over a new website they've put together to try to consolidate good information about Mt. Fuji, especially for potential climbers -- much like our own official website. They want the site to be clear, comprehensive, and easy to use by people all over the world. I accepted the assignment and told her that I was therefore her first volunteer! You can help too -- if you'd like to contribute your own feedback, just visit the site at and e-mail your comments to me at and I'll pass them along.

One of the most impressive parts of our visit was seeing first-hand the profound effect that participating in the J-VIPA program has had on its participants -- and their families. We met with students who were here for the first time last summer, and others who participated in the first program 21 years ago, and some who came back multiple times over the years. The common thread we heard again and again was how much the experience changed their lives in positive ways. They developed a new awareness of the natural world, the value of community service, an openness to international partnerships, and of course strong and life-long friendships. Many of the older students now have families of their own, and it's clear that those values are being passed on to the next generation. That's also happening through the Sister Mountain education project at Oarachi, where almost every student made a point of telling us how much they want to come visit Mount Rainier someday.

This program has planted some very good seeds, and their roots are going deep and growing strong. As one of our group members remarked at the reunion, we've formed a chain that will not break, and just keeps getting longer.

The penultimate evening of our trip, I sat next to program founder Hiro Yamaguchi and reflected on the program as we watched the sun set on Mt. Fuji. J-VIPA has concluded their volunteer partnership with Mount Rainier for now, but the friendships remain. The program is looking for other places to plant seeds -- maybe at another national park, or in another country besides the United States. They're also increasingly active in volunteer service at home in Japan. The program will continue to grow and blossom, and the world is a better place because of it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Longmire Campground Projects - Summer 2014

As posted last fall, the Volunteer Program received a $9,500 grant from Washington's National Park Fund and a $10,000 grant from Keep America Beautiful to enhance the historic Longmire Campground for volunteers and other groups. JVIPA built 10 picnic tables in August, but our plans to build more in October were put off by the notorious government shutdown. This spring, we plan to build twenty more tables and install a yet-to-be-determined number of new fire grates. In addition, we've located the historic group fire ring for the campground and are making plans to relocate and rebuild it with volunteer help. Watch the blog and newsletter for announcements of these projects and their dates! As well as offering provisions for camping space to VIP and educational groups, the Park is talking with tribal members about opportunities to use the campground occasionally, here in the landscape with which they have such deep cultural ties.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Eva Meassick Retires

A Park Volunteer since 1987, Eva Meassick has announced her retirement. Eva and her husband Joe conducted wilderness patrols on the east side as well as frontcountry patrols out of Sunrise until Joe passed away in 2002. The Meassicks also staffed Sunrise, assisting visitors in many capacities, including issuing permits, providing information and offering roadside assistance. They also made winter ski patrols from the north boundary to Chinook Pass, as well as assisting in other volunteer projects and SARs.

In 2003, Eva received the Superintendent's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2008, she was invited to Washington, D.C. to receive the George B. Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. Eva and Joe were cited for their cheerful demeanors and exceptional stewardship of the Park as well as the ability to handle difficult situations.

Upon her retirement, Eva Meassick has a total of 12,496 hours of volunteer service on record. We would again like to thank her for her amazing contribution of time and service.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Rediscovered trail sign documents 1925 Boy Scout volunteer project

...and one of those Boy Scouts, apparently, was Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard! Read all about it on The News Tribune's website:

I'll try to track down a photo of the sign to share with you all.

The Boy Scouts continue to be significant volunteer partners, 89 years later. Last summer, 66 Scouts contributed 433 hours of volunteer service at Mount Rainier.

Friday, March 7, 2014

RAVEN's Return

No, we aren't talking about big black birds filling the sky. We're talking about the return of Mount Rainier National Park's Roadside Assistance Volunteers (RAVEN for short) after the program's absence in 2013 due to lack of funding. A $10,000 grant from Washington's National Park Fund will permit us to hire two volunteers and obtain supplies, training, and vehicles.

The RAVEN program operates from June through August, assisting visitors who have locked themselves out of their vehicles or who are having car trouble. RAVEN volunteers also provide traffic control during emergency operations and during times of heavy traffic congestion. Typically, RAVEN volunteers work 6-7 days per week, primarily at Longmire, Paradise and Cougar Rock Campground. We hope to hire our RAVEN volunteers this coming week!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Litter pickers needed!

As part of the Volunteer Program's contract with the Washington State Dept. of Transportation, we have agreed to coordinate a litter patrol between mileposts 2 and 4 on State Route 706 during the month of April in recognition of Earth Day. The area to be policed includes the Park's Tahoma Woods frontage. An enormous amount of litter has accumulated over the winter, and we need your help to tidy up! If you are capable of walking at least one mile and are willing to devote approximately three hours to this public service project rain or shine, we have ten spots available. Sign up soon! The date is Saturday, April 26, hours 10-1. Gloves, "long-armed grabbers" and a short training session will be provided. To sign up, contact Volunteer Coordinator Crow Vecchio at no later than April 20.

Youth Heritage Summit - Summer 2014

The 2014 Youth Heritage Project is a partnership between the National Park Service, the Wing Luke Museum (a NPS Affiliated Area), the Washington Trust, and the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. This summer, as part of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Initiative, a youth summit will be held in Seattle. This four day program runs from July 9 through July 12, and will allow forty students to experience and learn about heritage preservation and stewardship first hand.

The project works to achieve four primary objectives: 1) to connect youth and teachers to historic places and landscapes; 2) to engage students in historic preservation and conservation activities; 3) to expand tools to support teachers’ educational efforts around the built and natural environment; 4) to excite the next generation of advocates and stewards of our natural and historic resources.

The location and study topics for YHP change annually: in 2014, YHP will take place primarily in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District (C-ID), with excursions to nearby Port Gamble and Bainbridge Island to visit additional sites related to the history of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in the Pacific Northwest. The program will address several historic topics including immigration, working and making a life in a new country, maintaining cultural roots, incarceration during World War II, and the importance of preserving cultural and heritage resources that tell these stories. Planned program sites include Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Building, the Panama Hotel and Nidoto Nai Yoni Memorial on Bainbridge Island.

Any high school age student may apply. Full scholarships covering lodging, meals, programming, and travel during YHP activities will be awarded to all accepted applicants. Participants are responsible for their own travel to and from downtown Seattle, but additional scholarship funds may be available for travel assistance.

Please visit Discover Washington: Youth Heritage Project for more information or to apply. Applications may be submitted electronically or by mail, and the deadline is April 18, 2014.