Saturday, November 22, 2014

Celebrating the past and future National Park Service

Continuing the theme in my last post about planning for the future, some of you may have noticed that the Centennial of the National Park Service is coming up. Didn't know that? Well, it's still two (short) years off, but I'm sure you'll hear more and more about it as the date gets closer! The specific date is August 25, 2016, but the entire year will be filled with special events commemorating the birth of an agency, and formal recognition of an idea, that has been replicated since all over the world.

Volunteers will, naturally, be part of the celebration, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has already made the Centennial part of her goal to engage one million volunteers annually on public lands. We're still waiting for details about what that will look like at parks like Mount Rainier, but it could well take the shape of exciting new volunteer opportunities!

Symbolizing the creative ways that volunteers already help us out at Mount Rainier, here's a photo from this August's "Shadows of the Past" living history program at Longmire. What better way to look forward to the possibilities of the future, than to get a bunch of people to bring alive Mount Rainier's vibrant past? These summer employees and volunteers are holding signs announcing the kickoff of Centennial publicity. Watch for much more in the months to come!

From left: Volunteer Karen "Virinda Longmire" Andrascik; Geologist-in-Parks
volunteer Nora Rose "Niece Joanne" Hencir; Maureen McLean; Dave "James
Longmire" Oleson; Hayley "Fay Fuller" Edmonston; Scott "John Muir"
McLean; Steve "Grenville Allen" Redman; Benjamin "PB Van Trump" Komar;
and Kelsey "Aunt Eleanor" Isom. Photo by Davis "Ashael Curtis" Root.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Climbers raise $140,000 for Mount Rainier National Park!

Now that our reports of volunteer program success and challenges are wrapping up for 2014, we're busy transitioning into planning for 2015! Yesterday I corresponded with CompassUSA about the possibility of working with new international volunteers. My duties this morning included writing a letter of support for a grant to expand some of the fantastic work our MeadoWatch program is doing to gather climate data with the help of citizen scientists. This afternoon, I've been working on nailing down planning meetings with Washington's National Park Fund and REI for a suite of volunteer projects next August.

The last of these deserves special mention, because this same collection of community partners earlier this year raised more than $140,000 for Mount Rainier National Park in the course of four fundraising climbs! Washington's National Park Fund supports projects in all three of Washington's national parks, and a good deal of their support goes to our volunteer program. This year, for instance, special grants paid for a pair of Emergency Roadside Assistance (nicknamed "Raven") volunteers, and the hiring of Maureen McLean to lead that and our popular Meadow Rover program. An estate grant made in 2010 by Raymond and Eleanor Wilson has helped pay for student interns, project supplies and uniforms, volunteer housing, and other essentials for programs all over the park for the last four years.

The fundraising climbs brought together all three of Mount Rainier's primary climbing guide services -- Alpine Ascents International, International Mountain Guides, and Rainier Mountianeering Inc. -- with Microsoft Corporation and Recreational Equipment Inc. You can read all about their experiences, and enjoy beautiful photos and videos, on a blog entry by one of the climbers and the Facebook page of another.

Whatever way you support Mount Rainier and its volunteer program -- through donations, direct participation, or following along on social media -- we appreciate your contributions in 2014, and we look forward to working with you in 2015!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 Annual Activity and Expense Report

Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Volunteers In Parks
Annual Activity and Expense Report
Mount Rainier National Park
Report Date: Nov 13, 2014
Fiscal Year: 2014

Volunteer Coordinator and Park Information

Total Volunteers: 1,693
Alpha Code: MORA
VIP Coordinator: Kevin Bacher
VIP Coordinator Phone: 360-569-2211
Coordinator Email:

Volunteer hours by category:

Administration: 344.00
Campground Host: 2,872.00
Cultural Resource Management: 2,846.00
General Management: 0.00
Interpretation: 14,505.00
Maintenance: 12,628.00
Natural Resource Management: 9,683.00
Protection/Operations/Law Enforcement: 13,031.00
Training: 1,427.00   
[Total: 57,336.00]

Program costs by category:

Housing: $ 13,759.00
Meals: $ 9,820.00
Recognition/Award: $ 0.00
Supplies: $ 3,585.00
Training: $ 0.00
Transportation: $ 5,237.00
Uniforms: $ 1,274.00

Volunteer Program Highlight

Our program thrives with the help of community partnerships. The Washington Trails Association coordinated 375 volunteers who put in 4,794 hours of work on trails. 38 SCA interns, including 30 members of 3 community crews from Seattle and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, contributed 5,236 hours. 18 interns hired through the Geologic Society of America, the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program, and local universities added another 7,372 hours. Many of these partnerships take the form of crew leaders: hired, for example, to recruit, train, and lead community members in citizen science, trail maintenance, meadow patrol, or glacier research. Two of these partners received major awards this year: the Japan Volunteers-in-Parks Association, awarded the PWR Hartzog Award for 20 years of partnership, and the Seattle office of the Student Conservation Association, which received the NPS Director's Award for 20 years bringing youth volunteers to the park. Citizen Science continues to be a growing area of interest. Our amphibian and butterfly survey programs continue to flourish, and participation in the MeadoWatch program has exploded. Even casual visitors are now able to participate in a Cascade Carnivore Survey, or submit geotagged photos for analysis by the MeadoWatch program. These programs succeed through partnerships with North Cascades NP and the University of Washington. Funding for our program this year included grants from Washington's National Park Fund and the National Park Foundation.


How many people at the park require VIP Program Mgmt Training: 20

Optional Information Regarding Housing VIPS and Campground Hosts

Number of Campground Hosts: 8
Number of VIPs housed in Permanent Structures: 35
Number of VIPs housed in Trailers: 11
Trailer Pads for Volunteers: 12

Other Information

Number of SCAs: 38
SCA Hours: 5236
Number of Artists in Parks: 0
Artist in Parks Hours: 0
Number of International VIPs: 0
International VIPS Hours: 0
Number of Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps: 0
Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps Hours: 0
Number of Boy Scouts: 53
Boy Scout Hours: 1605
Number of Girl Scouts: 16
Girl Scout Hours: 113

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Don't pick up the leaverite!

When you see a beautiful flower along the trail,
Ranger Maureen McLean says "leaverite there!"
You never know where our volunteer program will turn up. Why, just this past summer we landed in the pages of the esteemed High Country News, in an opinion piece written by Jourdan Arenson featuring our very own Meadow Rover Manager, Maureen McLean!

An exerpt:

If you love the outdoors for peace and solitude, you’ll hightail it to the backcountry. But if you spend some time with Ranger McLean, you can see the American ideal of forming a more perfect national park come to life before your eyes.

Read the whole story here. And if you'd like to help, never fear: the summer Meadow Rover volunteer program will return next June!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tanmoy Ghosh

For "Throw Back Thursday," here's an old but good set of photos. I just got these this year, or I would certainly have shared them two years ago when they were taken! The photographer is Tanmoy Ghosh, an international volunteer who worked with our wildlife program in the spring of 2012, surveying spotted owls (and, as you'll see in his photos, encountering many other forest residents along the way). The photos (taken between May 16 and June 26) tell a story that is typical of the kinds of internships we offer at Mount Rainier in all kinds of fields, hired through the Student Conservation Association, the Geologic Society of America, universities, or the volunteer program.

Seasonal housing at Longmire

The owl crew in the field

Tanmoy is pictured on the far right

The Natural Resources staff, Summer 2012

Monday, November 3, 2014

Shonna Siegers

Last month I promised you photos of volunteers in action. Soon after, I was derailed by a family emergency that has since run its course... so here once again is a set of photos of a volunteer in action this past summer! This is Shonna Siegers, a "Teacher-Ranger-Teacher," leading a Jr. Ranger program at Ohanapecosh Campground, photographed on July 13, 2014 by park employee Mary Wysong. The "TRT" program has been a popular one at Mount Rainier for years, and provides opportunities for classroom Teachers to become Rangers for the summer before returning to their jobs as Teachers in the fall (Teacher-Ranger-Teacher, get it?). It's a wonderful way to get some new experience, and national parks like ours benefit from the expertise of creative and motivated instructors! Visit our Education Program's "Development Opportunities" page for more information, and to learn about another program for geoscience teachers called "Geo Science Teachers-in-the-Parks."

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Road Construction - Final Update for the Season

Monday, October 27 to Friday, October 31

Asphalt milling and patching is anticipated, weather dependent.
Road construction is scheduled Monday to Friday from sunrise to 6:00 P.M.
Twenty to thirty-minute delays are possible

November 2014 to Spring 2015
Upon completion of the tasks above, the road will be ready for winter traffic.
Final paving is scheduled to occur in May, June and July 2015.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Photos from National Public Lands Day

Now that the busy summer volunteer season is over, we'll be posting a series on this blog featuring photos from the summer's activities. Our first in this series is from one of our most recent events: National Public Lands Day, at the end of September. Volunteers worked on projects all over the park for this annual event: taking down platform tents and doing some landscaping at Longmire, preparing trails for the winter season at Paradise, building bridges and water bars on the Wonderland Trail below Narada Falls, and planting native plants at Sunrise. Here are a few sample photos. More can be seen the park's Flickr page.

Taking down platform tents in the Longmire
Stewardship Campground

Volunteers head out to work on trails at Paradise

Washington Trails Association volunteers hard at
work on the Wonderland Trail

Revegetating the old Sunrise Campground on a
beautiful September day

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Summer is Ending -NO!

Hard to believe summer has ended and meadow roving is slowing down.  This Sunday, October 5, will be the last day for Rovers at Sunrise.  The radios at the White River Wilderness Information Center will be returned to winter storage on Monday the 6th.  The following weekend will be the last for Paradise.  Sadly, my time will end on the Monday the 12th.  I wish to thank all of you for your dedication to keeping the meadows of Sunrise and Paradise from being loved to death.  I could not do the job without you!

One last project remains - to determine the Meadow Rover(s) of the Year.  For this, I need your nominations.  This award is not based solely on the number of hours, but also on the contributions these volunteers have made to educating the public and fellow rovers.  So send me your nominees-via the  with a brief description as to why you feel they are worthy of this honor.  I will need these by October 10th to allow time for a decision before the end of my season. 

Maureen McLean
Coordinator MORA Meadow Rovers

Tinkering under the hood: national VIP policies now available for public input

The National Park Service's Volunteers-in-Parks program is governed by a set of policies collectively called "Director's Order #7." This policy document is updated periodically to reflect current needs and issues. The last version was enacted almost ten years ago, in June of 2005. A new draft has just been released, and is now open for internal comment through November 10 and public comment through October 26. Here is the complete announcement from our national office (editorial clarifications added in [brackets]):


To:                   National Leadership Council
From:               Chief, Office of Policy
Subject:           Review of Director's Order #7:  Volunteers-in-Parks

The subject Director’s Order--which will supersede and replace the previous version approved by Director Mainella on June 13, 2005--is attached for your [internal] review and comment for a 45-day period, ending November 10, 2014.  

In FY 2012, 257,000 volunteers contributed 6.78 million hours of service to the National Park Service (NPS).  This contribution was valued at $21.79 per hour, for a total value of $148 million, equivalent to 3,260 FTEs.

This edition updates the 2005 Order as follows:
  • The Volunteers-in-Parks program is now administered by the Associate Director, Interpretation and Education.
  • Volunteer reimbursement procedures have been updated as a result of IRS audit findings and newly obtained information on volunteers and travel procedures, in such a way that reimbursements do not create tax liabilities for volunteers.
  • NPS volunteer agreement forms have been eliminated and replaced with an interagency volunteer agreement form, OF 301A.
  • HSPD-12 [Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12] information has been added with guidance for the conduct of background investigations.  Volunteer fee collectors operating a fee booth or station with a point-of-sales system will now be required to undergo an MBI background investigation.
  • Qualified volunteers will now be allowed to apply pesticides.

The draft Order is the subject of a Federal Register notice published on September 26, 2014, inviting comment from the public for a 30-day period.

Joy Pietschmann, the Service-wide VIP Program Manager, will field any comments or questions about the attached Order.  She can be contacted at or 202-513-7141.

The draft Order is available online at:

For comparison, the existing (active) Director's Order can be found at