Thursday, December 27, 2007

Outdoors All-Stars!

From The News Tribune (photo from their site, by photographer Janet Jensen):

"As we like to remind you at this time each year, the best adventures are your own adventures. With that in mind, we are honoring 1,727 of you as our 2007 Adventurers of the Year. That’s one high-altitude Mount Everest rescuer, one blind mountain climber, one man who bagged Rainier for the 300th time, and 1,724 volunteers who helped put Mount Rainier National Park back together after the flood of 2006."

Check out the complete story on the TNT website... and congratulations, all of you!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

More SAR photos

Members of Tacoma, Seattle, Olympic, Everett, and Central Mountain Rescue wait for their morning briefing at the Emergency Operations Center:

Volunteer search personnel listen to a briefing from park ranger Steve Klump:

Members of Seattle Mountain Rescue prepare for a day of searching:

In all, 32 volunteers from Mountain Rescue units around the state are helping with the search this morning, including 7 from Tacoma, 6 from Seattle, 5 from Olympic, 7 from Everett, and 7 from Central Mountain Rescue. They are assisting 6 national park rangers, and 2 employees and a search dog from Crystal Mountain Ski Area.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

SAR Photos

Here are some images from the search for Kirk Reiser yesterday at Paradise, with the help of volunteers from Tacoma, Olympic, and Seattle Mountain Rescue. All photos are courtesy of Mike Gauthier, who has been serving as Incident Commander for this search.

NPS Rangers, assisted by Tacoma and Olympic Mountain Rescue volunteers, employees from Crystal Mountain Ski Area, and avalanche search dogs prepare to go out in the field:

Ranger Stefan Lofgren evaluates a test pit to assess avalanche danger:

Remember, the most up to date information about the status of the search, including our plans for tomorrow, are available by calling the main park number and dialing "9." Keep an eye, also, on the weather and avalanche forecasts for tomorrow. We'll be gathering for tomorrow's search starting at 6 a.m.

Mountain Rescue Volunteers

If you've been watching the local news over the past 24 hours, you might have seen me wearing one of my other park service hats: that of Public Information Officer. Two days ago, a young man from Lynnwood was caught in a snow avalanche while snowshoeing with a friend about a mile above Paradise. The search for him reached a peak at mid-day yesterday, when a total of 17 people were out looking for him in the midst of a vigorous winter storm. Eight of those people were dedicated volunteers from Tacoma, Olympic, and Seattle Mountain Rescue, three of our most important partner organizations. (Uncharacteristically, these are volunteers that we'd prefer not to have to call!) They started showing up at 7am yesterday morning and worked hard until dark, in 20 degree weather plus high winds and sometimes whiteout conditions, finally heading for home about 5:00. (The Seattle Post Intelligencer has a great picture of the Olympic volunteers coming in from the field, thumbnailed and linked above, along with a detailed article about the search.)

The weather, unfortunately, did not cooperate for us to search further today. We got 15.5 inches of snow at Paradise last night, and the visibility and avalanche danger never improved enough to accomplish, safely, more than what we were already able to do yesterday. Tomorrow's weather looks better, and so we hope to be back out in the field searching, again with the help of our friends from Mountain Rescue. It's just another example of what we wouldn't be able to accomplish without the help of our volunteers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2007 was quite the year for trails

Today's Washington Trail News, an e-mail newsletter from the Washington Trails Association, has lots of great information about hiking and snowshoeing during the winter. A lot of it is also available on their website, including a feature on snowshoeing at Mount Rainier, trip reports from Rainier and elsewhere, and a summary of WTA's most productive year ever, thanks to the thousands of you who volunteered to help with trail maintenance and storm repair at places like Mount Rainier and our surrounding forests!

Conservation Internships and Recovery Posters

A couple of quick news items:

We will soon be posting advertisements on the Student Conservation Association's website for next summer's Conservation Internships. I'll keep you posted as we decide which positions to advertise, but you'll already find next year's interpretive internship at Sunrise advertised. These are great opportunities for short-term positions with loads of job experience, ideal for college students. Check our website for a list of the kinds of positions we filled last year.

I spoke yesterday with Jay Satz at SCA, who said that he had the proof of our Mount Rainier Recovery posters on his desk, which are, in his words, "drop-dead gorgeous." We've asked for one minor tweak to the design, and should have the posters in hand in about a week or so. Watch for an announcement shortly asking for help with a mailing party after the holidays to get the posters out to all of our volunteers

Also pending: announcement in the next day or two of a major donation by a prominent local corporation in support of our volunteer program and its partners...

I've gotten lots of volunteer applications in the past few weeks. Thank you to all who are interested in joining us or returning next year! Remember, there isn't much going on during the winter, but volunteer opportunities will expand exponentially as soon as the snow starts melting in May and June. Make your plans now, and we'll look forward to working with you come summer, if not before.

And finally: in the Fall/Winter issue of the National Parks Conservation Association's Northwest Regional Office Field Report (it's probably been out for ages but I just discovered it), a great article called "Helping Rainier Recovery: A Volunteer's Perspective," by NPCA volunteer Sylvia Williamson. "As one of 115 volunteers at Mount Rainier on Public Lands Day, I was delighted to volunteer for the Pyramid Creek Sherpa Project..." Thanks, Sylvia!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Our roads need a fix

From the blog of the Northwest Interpretive Association:

"....Olympic National Park faired no better. The popular Hurricane Ridge road is closed due to shoulder damage - from lessons learned from last year's storm and Mt Rainier, a road may appear drivable but the shoulder may be undercut. Also closed because of the storm are the Heart o' the Hills campground, the Sol Duc road, the Hoh road and the Quinault roads.

"Again, the call for volunteers goes out to the northwest. Such a great response was made last year to get Mt Rainier re-opened, that we hope this year will also see people pitching in for public lands."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hunter fined for killing park elk

This from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

"An Arlington man sentenced Thursday in federal court for killing an elk in Mount Rainier National Park was ordered to pay $3,000 in fines and serve a year of probation, a federal official said Friday.... A park volunteer found an adult elk's remains Nov. 6, 2004."

Rangers used DNA analysis to link the elk to the poacher. Good work, rangers and volunteers!

Surveying the damage

The Washington Trails Association's blog, "The Signpost," has a good roundup of the flood damage reports from, as writer Andrew Engelson says, "our annual 100-year storm." A short exerpt:

"In terms of mountain roads and trails, the Olympics were perhaps hardest hit. The latest from Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest is that the Quinault area has suffered extensive damage. Most of the roads in the area are closed due to washouts and numerous blowdowns, including Graves Creek, the North Shore Quinault Road, and much of the South Shore Quinault Road. According to Pete Urban, with Olympic National Forest, just about every trail in the vicinity of Lake Quinault Lodge has many, many blown-down trees."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Field Notes

Here's a random assortment of current news and links related to volunteering:

Flood Recovery: Here's a great story in The Olympian about volunteer efforts in response to the flooding around Chehalis, including information about how you can help through the Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason, and Thurston Counties. See also this report, from The Oregonian.

Olympic Flooding: Olympic National Park now has a page for reporting the current status of roads and trails in the park, which also includes some impressive photos of their flood damage. It's all eerily familiar to those of us at Rainier who went through this last winter. I spoke with Maggie Tyler, the volunteer coordinator there, a couple of days ago. They have many roads washed out or undermined, a lot of their trails are buried by snow and so we won't know until spring how much they were affected, hundreds of trees came down, the entrance station at Hoh Rainforest was flooded, and at the peak of the flood, the Elwah River came just barely short of overflowing its dam. Current details are in the December 13 edition of the National Park Service's Morning Report.

Flood Science: Last winter, volunteer Scott Beason and others surveyed the effects of the flooding on Mount Rainier National Park. Along with park geomorphologist Paul Kennard, he has now published his final report on what he learned, and it's fascinating reading. Right-click this link to download a copy of "Environmental and ecological implications of aggradation in braided rivers at Mount Rainier National Park."

Next Summer at Rainier: In other news, planning for next summer's volunteer program continues well. Jill Baum and I have met with several park supervisors, and we're all excited about next year's program, which will be similar to this year's but with volunteer coordinators "embedded" in some of the park's key programs. We've gotten good feedback, suggestions, and questions, and are fine-tuning plans, even as we begin hiring for next summer's Mount Rainier Recovery Corps! If you know of anyone who might be interested in applying, send them our way! We're also working hard on putting together an exciting schedule of volunteer training opportunities in May and June, including NPS volunteer management, Leave No Trace, Risk Management, CPR, Wilderness First Aid, work skills, and NPS Orientation. Should be a fun summer!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Notes from San Diego

As mentioned in an earlier post, I spent two days last week near San Diego, attending and presenting at the Pacific West and Alaska Regional Superintendent's Conference. I want to share some of my notes from the conference, which was insightful and interesting on a long list of topics, including volunteerism, outreach, and partnerships.

The panel I was part of presented on Wednesday morning, for an audience of about two dozen superintendents from Alaska, Washington, and California. My co-presenters were Mandy Vance, Program Manager of Wildlink Yosemite; Michael Richardson, Program Director of the James P. Beckwourth Mountain Club in Denver; and Saul Weisberg, Executive Director of the North Cascades Institute. Together, they represented about thirty years of experience working in partnership with the National Park Service and other public agencies. We each introduced ourselves and our programs, then opened it up for discussion of issues, challenges, and ideas. Many of the superintendents had excellent questions or stories to share from their own experiences. It seems that the two most important issues we need to address, to make such partnerships more common, are 1) the culture of the National Park Service, and 2) funding. NPS culture is an issue because, historically, we haven't done much with partners. We're traditionally a very independent agency, one that has a singular mission, and populated by very independent individuals. Yet experiences such as ours this summer at Rainier have demonstrated how productive and rewarding partnerships can be. Our culture is changing to be more accepting of partnerships, but slowly and cautiously. One of the panelists, who works with multiple government agencies, says that the BLM is currently more open to working with educational non-profits than any other agency. Successful programs have both an agency champion and a non-agency champion. Without both, the partnership tends to fail. But the most successful programs transcend individuals by becoming "owned" and embedded in the culture of the park. "Find a common mission," said the superintendent of Golden Gate. Get together, find out what the barriers are, and work to overcome them. Don't give up before you start.

Funding, of course, is always an issue, and will be here at Rainier, too, as flood-related funding dwindles. Our groups draw on endowments, grants, earned income, and other sources to fund their programs, and invest significant resources into pursuing the funding necessary to keep them going. They lament that it's often easier to get funding for new programs than to sustain existing ones, though individual and corporate donors help. There are some existing sources of funding that we can draw on creatively, like cyclic maintenance funds.

Mr. Richardson commented that one of the major challenges he has faced as an African-American is building relationships between diverse cultural communities and national parks, especially when those cultures are underrepresented in the staff of those parks, or when "traditional" national park activities like hiking and camping are not common activities within those cultures. Yet programs like the Mountain Club, or the education program at Golden Gate, can provide opportunities for youth to engage in natural areas in new ways; and, in turn, national parks can reach out to diverse communities through non-profits and other groups that already serve those communities. "You have to reach out," he said, and once you do, the relationship will continue as long as you continue to provide a positive experience.

It takes time and commitment to cultivate partnership relationships, but they pay off. Youth programs, like the three non-profits on our panel, thrive on working with people who are passionate about their jobs. And ultimately, we have to cultivate the stewardship that created our parks in the first place--it's critical to the future health of our parks.

Other sessions included Lynn Scarlet, Deputy Secretary of the Interior, who stressed that the issues we face in the national parks transcend our borders, making partnerships and collaboration increasingly necessary. Technology is also changing rapidly, and we need to adapt the ways that we use it in order to keep up with our audience. Sustainable solutions, she said, will spring from collaboration and adaptive management, and agency managers are working on new policies to make partnerships easier--for example, giving superintendents more discretion and local authority for managing donation money, and relaxing some of the rules for competetion in cases where the goals of a partnership are not competitive--for example, when the goal is youth involvement rather than profit.

Dr. Robert W. Corell spoke about "Our Changing Climate: Issues for the NPS." I wish I could find a copy of his PowerPoint presentation to link to for you, because it was incredibly persuasive. He spoke in depth about the science of climate change--how the information is gathered, how it's analyzed, how it's tested. He made a very persuasive argument that the past 10,000 years of climate history have been unusually stable, which may have been a major factor in the development of modern civilization. After ten millenia, though, the levels of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane in our atmosphere are all up sharply.

Oceans are a major factor in shaping our climate. They account for 87% of the world's evaporation and, therefore, heat exchange. 90% of the energy from the sun goes into the ocean. We can model the affects of natural influences on ocean temperatures, and we can model those affects as supplemented by human influences--and the actual data measured around the world tracks with the latter models to a confidence greater than 95%. Oceans are also significant because the phytoplanktons living in them form the foundation of many of our planet's ecosystems. Increasing carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans increases its acidity, and that in turn impedes the phytoplankton's ability to form cellular structures. Based on measurements in the field, we're already seeing the trend moving in that direction.

Arctic ice is another harbinger of change, and incredibly, we're now seeing arctic ice melting significantly faster than computer models predicted. The extent of ice in September of this year was only half as great as it was in 1950, and the models now say that by 2040, give or take a decade, there will be no Arctic ice in September. The melt area on Greenland increased 20% from 1979 to 2005--and the decline is accellerating. This isn't seen as entirely negative by everyone--for instance, Russia is now building ships designed to take advantage of shorter routes through the arctic than are currently available through the Suez Canal. Furthermore, 25% of the world's petroleum reserves are estimated to be in the Arctic. The problem is, the Arctic is full of boundary disputes, and there are few mechanisms in place for resolving them.

Climate change usually has multiple effects. Warmer temperatures mean higher oceans, not just due to melting ice but also due to thermal expansion. Melting permafrost and longer summer storm seasons have increase erosion along the coast of Alaska. The longer, warmer seasons have also contributed to an infestation of bark beetles, whose larvae survive better in the warmer soil and now complete three larvae cycles per year instead of two.

Sobering stuff.

Wednesday morning's plenary session by Dayton Duncan, partner of Ken Burns, was more upbeat. He's working on a 12-hour, 6-episode documentary about the national parks, currently titled "Our Common Treasure: The Story of the National Parks." Three random quotes from his presentation: The story of national parks is "a story as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence, and, I would say, just as radical," especially in its intention of preserving parks for everyone, not just a particular class of people. The story of national parks, he says, "is not about places--it's about people who became passionate about places." And finally, his greatest concern is that Americans have become complacent, thinking that the parks have always been there and that they are "self-perpetuating," when in reality, they require passionate advocacy today as much as ever. He ended by showing us about ten minutes of rough footage from the documentary, which, of course, was awesome.

The last session I attended was presented by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. He's been working for years on the issue of what he calls "nature deficit disorder." Kids today are demonstrably less connected to natural places than any other previous generation. If this disconnect continues, he says, where will future stewards and political support come from? Kids today increasingly think of nature as something intellectual (a National Geographic special or magazine feature on global warming), or a commodity (an otter on a t-shirt), rather than as an experience. Schools teach great things about the big ecological picture, but provide few opportunities for personal experience in nature. The human child in nature, he says, may be more of an "indicator species" than spotted owls.

Studies show--and this matches my own personal experience--that most of us who work in the field of conservation have special places we remember from childhood. They may not be great national parks, but just a vacant lot or woods near our home (for me, it was the local mill race, the railroad right-of-way, and the field edges behind our church). Studies also show significant connections between experience in nature and overall health--in areas like stress, obesity, and attention deficit disorders. Schools with outdoor programs score better on tests. Finland has the most outdoor education in the world--and the best test scores. Kids with natural play areas tend to play more creatively and collaboratively--even when compared to kids who participate in organized sports.

But this is an intrinsically hopeful issue. There's lots we can do, and broad support for doing something. And in comparison with the negative messages we're bombarded with constantly--for instance, how bleak the future looks due to global warming--this is a positive message. Based on the science, preservation of land is now a public health issue. While some may worry about the "risks" of nature, the risks from a lack of nature are even greater. And there are all kinds of things we can do, from local land management decisions to the landscaping of yards and businesses, to thinking about natural areas within urban areas as connected to one another than than as isolated pockets--a "Decentral Park," if you will.

A lot of this has nothing--directly--to do with volunteerism. And yet, it's all part of why we do what we do, isn't it? And it's tremendous food for thought as we shape volunteer programs that engage both adults and children with natural places.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Floods roundup

I'm back from San Diego, which is an odd place to be, in sunny 70 degree weather, when your home state is drowning under floods. It's strange to turn on CNN and see the lead story covering places just an hour from your home. Lots of folks have called or e-mailed me asking about the status of Mount Rainier National Park, so I apologize for being out of touch at this critical time. Here's a roundup of what's happened and where we stand.

Mount Rainier National Park seems to be fine. That could still change, as many wilder parts of the park are inaccessible at the moment due to winter snow, and we could find pockets of devastation when the snow melts in the spring. But so far, so good: all of our road and levee repairs held up well through the storm, with only minor erosion and some trees down. This storm was not nearly as bad as the one a year ago... for us at Mount Rainier. It was, of course, devastating for people in Chehalis, Tillamook, and other areas where the storm hit more directly, including Olympic National Park.

Storm stats: Acting Superintendent Roger Andrascik wrote on Tuesday morning: "The Nisqually River at National appears to have crested at 2200 hours Monday 12/3/07 at 11.37', below the predicted 11.8' and well below the historic 12.8' in 2006." Flood stage is 10 feet. Here's a link to the current streamflow data for the Nisqually River, and to the left you'll see a chart for the period of the storm. We got about 6 inches of rain in a little over 24 hours, far less than the 18 inches we got in 36 hours last year. Looks like maximum stream flow was about 9,480 cubic feet per second, compared with an average discharge of around 12,000 cfs on November 6, 2006. At 2pm on December 2nd (and for several hours before and after), Camp Muir was getting 95 mph sustained winds with gusts to 111 mph, before the wind station gave out that night.

Storm reports: Here's a summary report from the NPS Morning Report for December 5:

Mount Rainier – The park received 3.7 inches of rain in a 24-hour period on December 3rd. Despite continuous heavy rainfall throughout the park during the day and throughout the night, no significant damage was reported. Some flooding, mudslides, and runoff overtopping roadways occurred in local areas outside the park, causing hazardous driving conditions getting to and from Mount Rainier. An interdivisional planning team put contingency plans into effect in the event that the heavy rainfall began to affect the safety of visitors or employees. Non-essential employees were provided several hours of administrative leave in the afternoon to assist them in getting home to their families safely during daylight hours. The Nisqually River reached flood stage around 10 a.m. and continued to rise until it crested at 11.37 feet later that evening. As a comparison, the devastating flooding that occurred in the park a year earlier (November 6, 2006) crested at 12.8 ft. Roadway repairs, culvert improvements, and stream reinforcements constructed following the 2006 flood all survived this most recent event and performed as designed. The park returned to normal operations on the morning of December 4th.

Olympic fared worse (see also a similar report on their website):

Olympic NP – High winds and heavy rains dropped trees throughout the park and caused a record-breaking rise in the Elwha River. The river reached a record high level on Monday when it peaked at 24.65 feet, 4.65 feet above flood stage. The previous high stage was recorded in November 1949, when the river peaked at 24.2 feet at the McDonald Bridge gage. The river rose 14 feet in the 24 hours that preceded its record-setting stage. At the river’s peak stage, 32,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water was flowing past the McDonald Bridge gage; 24 hours earlier, the flow was only 658 cfs. The river level began dropping yesterday, and was predicted to drop below flood stage by late afternoon.

On Tuesday, park crews began cutting their way through numerous downed trees in an effort to access park entrance roads, make damage assessments, and begin repairs to damage caused by the storm. Only Kalaloch was open yesterday, and the park was not recommending travel to that area. With Highway 101 closed at Lake Crescent and Highway 112 only recently reopened, staff have been challenged in reaching the park’s west side destinations. Yesterday morning, maintenance and ranger staff were ferried across Lake Crescent by boat in order to reach the area. The summary of known damage follows:

  • Elwha Dam – Shortly after the river hit its peak, floodwater began entering the Elwha Dam powerhouse. Bureau of Reclamation employees put Emergency Response Level 1 into effect, which is primarily a notification and preparation phase. All appropriate emergency contacts were notified. The next step would have been to evacuate the powerhouse, but this didn’t happen because the waters began to drop. Assessments on Tuesday revealed only minor damage to one of the log booms at the dam, which can easily be repaired. At the height of the flood, the operators were holding back some water behind the Glines Canyon Dam further up river, while all ten spill gates were open at the Elwha Dam.
  • Hurricane Ridge Road – Crews have cleared two rockslides from the road and are assessing possible damage to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. Wind speeds of up to 86 miles an hour were recorded on the ridge on Monday. The Heart O’ the Hills campground remains closed due to earlier damage from a November 12th windstorm.
  • Elwha – The Olympic Hot Springs Road is closed at the park boundary as crews continue to assess flood damage. Rangers report that many sites in the Altair campground have been washed away by the high flows.
  • Lake Crescent – Highway 101 is closed around Lake Crescent between mileposts 222 and 232. The westbound lane of Highway 101 was severely damaged when a debris flow blocked a culvert and diverted water over the road about four miles west of Barnes Point.
  • Sol Duc Road – A mudslide 5 feet deep and 60 feet wide is covering the Sol Duc Road about a half-mile south of Salmon Cascades. Damage beyond that point has not yet been assessed.
  • Hoh Rain Forest – The Hoh Road is closed, with water flowing over the road at Snyder Creek within the park as well as outside the park boundary. Just over 14 inches of rain were recorded at the Hoh Visitor Center in the past 48 hours.
  • Mora – The Mora area remains closed pending damage assessments.
  • Quinault Rain Forest – Over seven inches of rain fell in the Quinault Valley between December 2nd and 3rd and high winds toppled many trees. The North Shore Quinault Road is closed by downed trees and electrical lines and crews are working today to reopen the road. The North Fork and Graves Creek Roads remain closed.
  • Ozette – The Hoko-Ozette is closed with downed trees and power lines.
    Dosewallips, Staircase and Queets Roads – The roads remain closed due to previous damage and unsafe conditions. The Deer Park Road is closed for the season.
Here's an update on Olympic from December 6 (and, again, you can see a similar report, with a picture, on their website):

The park continues to recover from the severe storm that struck the region earlier this week. As park crews gain access to roads and facilities, additional damage has been discovered in some areas, while other roads have reopened. Phone and electrical service are still out in the park’s western areas. A summary of known damage follows:
  • Hurricane Ridge Road – A major slide near the Switchback Trail brought mud, debris and water over the road. Once the slide was cleared, workers were able to spot several areas of extensive damage to the road shoulder along the downhill lane. The road will remain closed this weekend to allow crews to fully assess the damage and begin repairs. The Heart O’ the Hills campground is closed due to earlier damage from the November 12th windstorm.
  • Quinault Valley – The North Shore and South Shore Quinault Roads are closed due to downed trees and electrical lines. Crews are continuing to cut their way through the trees to reopen the roads. There is no electrical or phone service at Quinault. The North Fork and Graves Creek Roads remain closed and have not been assessed yet.
    Hoh Road – The Hoh Road is closed at its intersection with Highway 101. One lane of the road was washed out within Jefferson County; minor damage has also occurred within the park.
  • Elwha – The Olympic Hot Springs Road, the Whiskey Bend Road and Elwha campground have all reopened. Elwha Valley’s Altair campground was not as severely damaged as initially thought; receding floodwaters have revealed many sites to be damaged by the flooding, but no sites or structures were lost. The Altair campground is closed throughout the winter season.
  • Lake Crescent area – Highway 101 has reopened in the Lake Crescent area. Both the East Beach and Camp David Junior roads are open and cleared.
    Sol Duc Road – The Sol Duc Road remains closed due to a mudslide about a half-mile south of Salmon Cascades.
  • Mora – The Mora area has reopened, including the Mora campground.
  • Ozette – The Ozette area is closed with downed trees and power lines.
  • Dosewallips, Staircase and Queets Roads – The roads remain closed due to previous damage and unsafe conditions.
  • Deer Park Road – The road is closed for the season.

More sources of news: Lots of other websites have good sources of up to date information. Start with the Northwest Parks and Public Lands Storm Recovery Coalition, set up after last year's floods, whose most recent posting is titled "Winter storms rip through Northwest: Parks hit again." The National Parks Conservation Association's National Parks Traveler blog reports "Pacific storm shuts down most of Olympic National Park," and comments, "If this keeps up, we're going to have to redefine the '100-year storm.'" (That's global climate change for you.) The Washington Trails Association's Signposts blog has on top of the news, with an initial report titled "Another mountain flood" that begins "I'm starting to feel like Chicken Little," and a follow-up report called "Two hikers dead, storm hits hard." The hikers died in an avalanche near Snoqualmie Pass. While you're at it, by the way, you can also check out "One year later, much storm damage awaits repair," an article that will now need to be updated, and "One year after the storm," which also remains very relevant. Finally, check this out: Ironically, tomorrow is the Washington Trails Association's volunteer appreciation party on the Olympic Penninsula. They'll need volunteers more than ever this next year. Which brings us to:

How you can help: Contact Maggie Tyler, the volunteer program manager at Olympic National Park, to offer assistance with their flood recovery. And don't forget that volunteers are needed in a lot of other areas as well! We don't have much going on at Rainier this time of year, so go help where you're needed! Then come back here next summer, as we'll have plenty to keep you busy continuing to clean up last year's flood!

Friday, November 30, 2007

San Diego bound

I'll be off to San Diego next week to participate in the Pacific West and Alaska regional superinten-dent's conference. The conference runs Tuesday through Thursday, with discussions about issues facing superintendents throughout the region, including global climate change, volunteerism, public partnerships, outreach and recruitment, new technologies, and the Service's Centennial Initiative. I've been invited to participate in a panel discussion on Wednesday morning, talking about strategies for connecting members of the public with their national parks, especially youth. I'll be joined by Saul Weisburg of the North Cascades Institute, Mandy Vance from WildLink, near Yosemite, and Michael Richardson from the James P. Beckwourth Mountain Club in Denver. These people represent very successful partnership with other national parks, and even though our own partnership with SCA has been tremendously successful this past year, I still feel a bit like the new kid on the block! I'm very much looking forward to hearing what the others have to say, and learning from their experience, as well as attending some of the other conference sessions during the day: "The Special Meaning of National Parks," by Dayton Duncan; "Connecting People to Nature: The National Park Service Role," by Richard Louv; and, in the afternoon, three great options for what unfortunately are concurrent sessions: "Programs that Connect Youth and Communities to Parks," "Technology Tools for Connecting People to Parks and Parks to People," and "Cultivating Park Stewardship through Volunteerism."

Tuesday is a bonus day: since I'll already be there, I get to listen in on the discussions of climate change and the Centennial Initiative, and look forward to bringing insights on those topics back to the interpretive staff here at Rainier. With our glaciers melting at an accelerating rate, and our rivers filling up with glacial debris, changing course, and flooding their banks, that's an extremely relevant issue for us here.

Meanwhile, I've spent part of the past week preparing for the conference, including creating a poster about our flood recovery efforts to display. I've included a thumbnail version that you can click to see at larger size (not full-size--it's 36x48" at 300dpi!!). It's an interesting challenge, to boil down a full year of effort, involving permanent, seasonal, and volunteer staff and numerous partners, into a poster that isn't too complicated or wordy, and still has enough visual flair to catch people's interest. You can judge for yourself how successful I was.

In other news, check out Washington's National Park Fund's new website (see the previous blog entry for details), and don't miss their links to SCA's Final Report for 2007 and a Flickr website with tons of great pictures from around Mount Rainier. And finally, note that there is now 15" of snow on the ground at Longmire, and 34" at Paradise. The trees through my window here at Longmire are blanketed with snow and very beautiful. Dust off your skis and snowshoes, winter's a-comin'!

- Kevin Bacher, Volunteer Program Manager

Washington's National Park Fund's new website

Hello Friends,

We went "live" today with our new website, which can be viewed here:

I hope you'll take some time to roam around, explore the 3 parks, become introduced to our "Champions" and learn about all the great ways donors and friends can become involved with Washington's National Park Fund. Please also take a moment to sign up for our email newsletter, which you'll receive monthly.

I encourage you to share this site with your friends, using the "Send this Web Link to a Friend" found at the bottom right corner of each page.

Thank you so much and have a great weekend!

Best regards,

Eleanor Kittelson, Executive Director
Washington's National Park Fund

Thursday, November 22, 2007

New $50,000 grant will help shape Rainier-Fuji Sister Mountain project

More volunteer news from The News Tribune:

"A $50,000 grant will be used to launch the Mount Rainier-Mount Fuji Sister Mountain Curriculum Project and Teacher Exchange Program.... 'This project will take the Mount Rainier-Mount Fuji Sister Mountain relationship to a new level,' said Mount Rainier park superintendent Dave Uberuaga."

Mount Rainier National Park's international relationship with Mount Fuji began with a summit rock exchange in 1935, and for forteen years has included an annual volunteer project by Japanese students through the Japan Volunteers-in-Parks Association.

Hike of the week

From The News Tribune, this week's Hike of the Week is the rebuilt section of the Wonderland Trail between Longmire and Cougar Rock:

"The availability of this trail for hiking and snowshoeing is a testament to the volunteer help in response to the damage to Mount Rainier National Park by floods in November 2006 and the winds the following month."

A day for gratitude and counting blessings

Among the things the editors of The News Tribune are grateful for:

"Volunteer workers whose sweat helped reopen Mount Rainier for the rest of us."

Hear, hear!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Weekend News

I just got this cute school assignment from one of the kids that participated in National Public Lands Day on September 29. Daniel helped with is brother and mother to rehab campsites in the Longmire Campground, by scraping moss off rocks (on the left) with a spatula (in the middle) and then carrying them to other locations in plastic bags (on the right). All in the shadow of Mount Rainier (far left) and under drizzly skies (top). This really makes me smile!

Regional and national volunteer reports

I've been looking over the annual reports for the regional and national volunteer programs. There are some interesting details in the reports. Here's our regional report, followed by the national one:

Annual Activity and Expense Report
Pacific West Regional Office
Report Date: Nov 20, 2007
Fiscal Year: 2007

Volunteer Coordinator and Region Information

Total Volunteers: 48,690
Parks reporting: 58
VIP Coordinator: Peggy Dolinich

Volunteer hours by category:

Administration: 17,891.00
Campground Host: 98,004.50
Cultural Resource Management: 61,041.50
General Management: 51,419.55
Interpretation: 432,250.79
Maintenance: 321,680.10
Natural Resource Management: 351,626.05
Protection/Operations/Law Enforcement: 104,744.00
Training: 16,259.25

[Total hours: 1,454,918.00]

Program costs by category:

Housing: $ 318,965.43
Meals: $ 381,904.60
Recognition/Award: $ 88,450.02
Supplies: $ 206,335.88
Training: $ 70,230.28
Transportation: $ 304,064.56
Uniforms: $ 90,460.62

[Total costs: $ 1,460,412.00]

Other Information

Number of SCAs: 321
SCA Hours: 126,357.0
Number of International VIPs: 64
International VIPS Hours: 19,097.5

Annual Activity and Expense Report
Servicewide Report
Report Date: Nov 20, 2007
Fiscal Year: 2007

Volunteer Program Information and Coordinator

Total Volunteers: 160,399
Parks reporting: 371
VIP Coordinator: Joy Pietschmann

Volunteer hours by category:

Protection/Operations/Law Enforcement: 314,374.70
Campground Host: 381,774.50
Administration: 136,616.05
Natural Resource Management: 874,753.55
Interpretation: 2,125,834.28
Training: 63,750.00
Maintenance: 1,123,220.00
General Management: 118,749.55
Cultural Resource Management: 324,847.70

[Total hours: 5,463,920.33]

Program costs by category:

Supplies: $ 669,536.86
Transportation: $ 640,210.40
Recognition/Award: $ 299,477.00
Training: $ 192,994.71
Uniforms: $ 361,125.42
Housing: $ 896,511.27
Meals: $ 809,638.13

[Total costs: $ 3,869,493.79]

Other Information

Number of SCAs: 1,419
SCA Hours: 489,708.3
Number of International VIPs: 130
International VIPS Hours: 38,219.0

The first thing I see, comparing these reports to last year, is that volunteer participation is up, but servicewide and in our Pacific West region. Nationally our total number of volunteers is up by 3.8% and total volunteer hours is up by 6.4%. In our region, the number of volunteers is up a whopping 30%, though volunteer hours are only up 4.1% (suggesting a significant increase in short-term volunteers).

I also see that at the national level the number of SCA interns is down by 47% from last year--a loss of over a thousand people! I wonder why? To make the matter even more puzzling, SCA hours are only down 0.3%. At the regional level, our SCA participation is up about 6%. It makes me wonder if there's an error in the national numbers somewhere. [update: I found the error! One of the national parks reported 1,241 SCAs last year... with a total of 976 hours. The invasion of the lay-about interns! That park listed 5 SCAs in 2005 and 4 this year. So, the 2006 number is in error, and in fact, SCA numbers nationally have gone up 5.3% over the past two years.]

Finally, I see that nationally, international volunteer participation is up 18%, from 110 last year to 130 this year, with a 10% increase in their volunteer hours. Good job to the folks in our Office of International Affairs! It's also interesting to note that almost 1 out of 5 international volunteers in the entire National Park Service this summer were at Mount Rainier (mostly through our partnership with the Japan Volunteer-in-Parks Association), and nearly half of the international volunteers servicewide were here in the Pacific West Region.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I received this e-mail this week from Chris Jarvi, an Associate Director of the National Park Service. It's another example of the attention our volunteer program is receiving throughout the Service, in response to the incredible effort our volunteers contributed this past year. Great work, everyone!!


I just wanted to let you know how very impressed I was with the tremendous job that you are doing with your Volunteer and the SCA programs at Mount Rainier as evidenced by the attached article [the most recent volunteer newsletter]. This summary really captures, with both numbers and scope, a program that is worthy of celebrating and holding up as an example to the rest of the National Park Service.

As you probably are aware, a $2.4 million increase to the park base has been proposed in the FY 08 budget for full-time and part-time volunteer coordinators to support an increased expansion of the VIP Program. It is estimated that 44 full and part-time volunteer managers will be provided with the funds requested. I'm sure that you know that MORA is slated to receive an additional $48,000 of this funding when the budget is passed based on your demonstrated need, program scope and complexity and proven success.

In addition, our Servicewide volunteer program support will be increased by $1 million to help establish training for first-time volunteer coordinators in the field; increase housing opportunities for volunteers, supply parks with recruitment materials; improve the current park volunteer recognition program; purchase supplies needed for the expected increase in volunteers; and reimburse volunteers for out of pocket expenses including local transportation, meals, and uniforms. With those increases, there is a high expectation that we will be achieving even greater numbers of volunteers. I think that our parks can and should look to programs like yours to see how volunteerism can be creatively encouraged and appropriately rewarded.

Thank you for the job that you are doing on behalf of Mount Rainier. Thanks for the opportunity that you are giving your volunteers to invest in something that they love and want to protect. And finally, thanks for serving as a great example of what can be done with a volunteer program using your creativity and the resources you were given. Hopefully, the Centennial Initiative legislation will be passed soon and you will be able to do even more for your park and the NPS volunteer program.


Christopher K. Jarvi, Associate Director
Partnerships and Visitor Experience
National Park Service

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Superintendent's Message

Dear Mount Rainier Employees, Volunteers, Friends, and Partners,

As I sit back and reflect on what has occurred since the park was hit with the devastating floods one year ago on November 5 & 6, I am truly amazed at all the recovery work that has been accomplished. With the utmost care and professionalism you tackled one challenging repair after another. As we planned out each project, you worked hard to understand the impacts on resources, public access and the costs of repairs. You were thoughtful, asked the hard questions and then you got the work done. I am ever grateful for your outstanding efforts.

In addition, we engaged our concerned public telling the initial story of damage and ongoing repairs during the unprecedented six month closure. You kept telling the story as it evolved, as we met major milestones in the recovery, garnering an outpouring of public understanding, empathy and support. You engaged our youth and volunteers in record breaking numbers giving them a memorable experience to reflect back on for years to come.

I also want to pass on the words of support that we have received through hundreds of emails and letters from around the country and internationally as well. Director Mary Bomar, Regional Director Jon Jarvis and our delegation, especially Congressman Norm Dicks have asked me to pass on their thank you for a successful year of flood recovery. We have more work ahead of us but we need to take time out and reflect on what we have accomplished -- it is quite remarkable and historic.

Thank you again for your hard work, professionalism and a job well done. I am very proud to be your Superintendent.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Volunteers Vital to Park Repair

Exerpted from The News Tribune:

Even after a record number of people volunteering at Mount Rainier National Park, the need in 2008 will be nearly as great. There will be plenty of projects, large and small, that will need the same muscle, sweat and effort that dug new stretches of the Wonderland Trail, carried culverts and bridge material, cleaned campgrounds, and patrolled the meadows at Paradise and Sunrise. "We won't have the dire need for volunteers next year, but the opportunities for people to come in and play an active role in their national park will be there," said Kevin Bacher, the park's volunteer program coordinator.

Also of interest: "Carbon River Road Faces Uncertain Future."

Friday, November 2, 2007

Rebuilding Rainier 2.7 is now online!

Volume 2.7 of our volunteer newsletter is now online! (Right-click and save the link for best results.) This is the issue you've all been waiting for--the 2007 end-of-season summary, with a complete list of all we've accomplished over the past year, including a 92% increase in volunteer hours!! You'll also find plans for the coming year; ways that you can stay involved over the winter; and, of course, lots of pictures from National Public Lands Day. Happy reading!

Flood Recovery Reaches One-Year Milestone

From the NPS Intranet site today:

R.E.I. store managers from the Northwest Region came to Mount Rainier
to help with recovery efforts along with hundreds of others. NPS photo.

On November 6-7, 2006, Mount Rainier National Park received 18 inches of rainfall in a 36 hour period. Flood waters devastated infrastructure throughout the park, resulting in an unprecedented six-month closure.

The damage was extensive and extraordinary:

  • Landslides and major washouts severed access to each major park road.

  • Old growth trees were uprooted.

  • Much of Sunshine Point campground washed away.

  • Rivers and creeks changed channels, cutting new paths and leaving old ones dry.

  • Trail damage occurred throughout the park, as raging water wiped out bridges, thousands of felled trees blocked access, and in some places trails were stripped to bedrock.

The landscape of the park would be forever changed.

A year later, the park has made tremendous progress in the recovery process. Throughout the winter and spring of 2007, park crews worked tirelessly to repair roads and restore all utilities in the park, and the park reopened its gates to visitors again on May 5th. Throughout the summer and fall, park staff continued to work diligently to restore dozens of damaged sites. The Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trail circling the park, reopened in August, and, by mid-November, the major road repair projects in the park will be complete.

Recovery efforts at Mount Rainier have made tremendous headway thanks in large part to the support of Congress and the help of over 1,700 volunteers, a park record. Individuals, businesses and organizations united through the Northwest Storm Recovery Coalition and the Student Conservation Association to contribute 84,000 hours of volunteer labor to the park this year at a value of nearly $1.6 million.

Much work is still to be done. Superintendent Dave Uberuaga estimates that the majority of park recovery projects will be complete within the next year. Attention is now focused on shoring up flood protection for the rainy season to protect park infrastructure and the historic assets of the park. The trails system, however, may take years to fully rehabilitate. Decisions are still on the horizon as the park is developing alternatives for how to provide public access to the Carbon River Road area and to undertake major trail rerouting projects on the Carbon River and Glacier Basin Trails.

Additional images and details of the flood can be found at the Mount Rainier National Park website at .

For more information, please contact Alison Bullock, public information officer, Mount Rainier National Park, at 360-569-2211 x2336 .

Mount Rainier National Park: A Year After the Flood

See also the document Flood Recovery Status: One Year Later.

For Immediate Release
Alison Bullock, 304-569-2211 x2336

One year ago this week, Mount Rainier National Park experienced an historic flood that changed the landscape of the park forever. Eighteen inches of rain fell over a period of 36 hours, washing out roads, destroying trails, severing power, telephone and sewer systems, damaging campgrounds, and closing the park for an unprecedented six months.

A year later, the park has made tremendous progress in the recovery process. Throughout the winter and spring of 2007, park crews worked tirelessly to repair roads and restore utilities in the park. Mount Rainier reopened the gates to visitors on May 5th, 2007. Throughout the summer and fall, park staff and volunteers continued to work diligently to restore dozens of damaged sites throughout the park. The Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trail circling the park, reopened in August, and by mid-November, the major road repair projects in the park will be complete.

“It is an enormous milestone to have all the major road projects finally coming to completion in the park. We cannot thank enough our employees, the many volunteers, and the support of Congress in getting us where we are today,” said Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga.

Mount Rainier received a record 80,000 hours of volunteer support in 2007, amounting to $1.6 million in value to the park. The efforts of partner organizations such as the Northwest Storm Recovery Coalition, the Student Conservation Association, the National Park and Conservation Association, Washington’s National Park Fund, the Mountaineers, the Washington Trails Association, and businesses such as Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) and Starbucks have been extraordinary.

Much work is still to be done. Attention is now focused on shoring up flood protection for the rainy season to protect park infrastructure and the historic assets of the park. The trails system, however, may take years to fully recover. Decisions are still on the horizon as the park is developing alternatives for how to provide public access to the Carbon River area and major trail rerouting projects on the Carbon River and Glacier Basin trails.

In 2008 the park will need the continued support of volunteers and partnering organizations to fully complete the recovery of the park. Most of the recovery work ahead is in the backcountry on trail projects and remote backcountry structures.

Initial estimates for flood recovery were projected at $36 million. Due to the support of volunteers and the use of park crews for much of the repair work, estimates have been revised down to $24-27 million over the two year recovery period. Superintendent Uberuaga attributes the cost savings to the use of existing park crews to perform a majority of the recovery work. Lower cost alternatives were chosen on projects such as Kautz Creek, where park crews were able to install culverts in lieu of major bridge construction. Solutions were engineered with consultants to apply alternative methods to road repair projects at White River, where an estimated $1 million repair was completed for only $400,000 by using river barbs, a lower cost alternative, instead of rip rap. Volunteers also did a great deal of routine recurring maintenance on roads, trails and campgrounds, allowing park crews to focus on more complex repairs to the park.

For more information on the recovery of Mount Rainier National Park, visit the park’s website at


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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 02, 2007
Fiscal Year: 2007

Volunteer Coordinator and Park Information

Total Volunteers: 1,724
Alpha Code: MORA
VIP Coordinator: Kevin Bacher
VIP Coordinator Phone: 360-569-2211
Coordinator Email:

Volunteer hours by category:

Administration: 1,260.00
Campground Host: 2,136.00
Cultural Resource Management: 2,302.00
General Management: 0.00
Interpretation: 9,057.00
Maintenance: 45,786.00
Natural Resource Management: 8,902.00
Protection/Operations/Law Enforcement: 13,269.00
Training: 1,326.00

Program costs by category:

Housing: $ 84.00
Meals: $ 11,639.00
Recognition/Award: $ 706.00
Supplies: $ 14,235.00
Training: $ 1,097.00
Transportation: $ 7,030.00
Uniforms: $ 4,278.00

Updated 20 November 2007.

Volunteer Program Highlight

In early November, 2006, severe flooding damaged most of Mount Rainier's roads, trails, and campgrounds. Hundreds of people immediately contacted the park with offers of financial and volunteer support. To respond, the park formed a partnership with the Student Conservation Association to recruit, coordinate, and lead an army of volunteers, helping in all aspects of the park, especially trail construction. Partnerships with a coalition of other local non-profit organizations helped with publicity, recruitment, fundraising, and event planning. The result was an increase in our volunteer numbers of 90% over last year, including many individuals and groups who have already expressed interest in returning. Youth corps volunteers alone contributed 26,698 hours of work. Volunteer feedback and media coverage were extremely positive. By working with volunteers, we were able to significantly reduce our flood recovery costs, help preserve wilderness and cultural preservation values, and engage large numbers of people in our community in the ongoing stewardship of the park. Our flood recovery work and partnerships will continue in FY08. Mount Rainier NP has also invested in personnel and infrastructure, in addition to the program costs listed here, to ensure that we can continue building on this year's success into the future.


How many people at the park require VIP Program Mgmt Training: 15

Optional Information Regarding Housing VIPS and Campground Hosts

Number of Campground Hosts: 5
Number of VIPs housed in Permanent Structures: 35
Number of VIPs housed in Trailers: 6

Trailer Pads for Volunteers: 7

Other Information

Number of SCAs: 38
SCA Hours: 18051
Number of Artists in Parks: 0
Artist in Parks Hours: 0
Number of International VIPs: 24
International VIPS Hours: 1144
Number of Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps: 0
Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps Hours: 0

SCA Mount Rainier Recovery Corps 2007 Fact Sheet

Some stats for SCA's Mount Rainier Recovery Corps this summer:

Volunteer projects: 108
Volunteers: 701
Volunteer hours (project start to project end): 4243.5
Volunteer-leading hours (includes prep time): 3963.5
Additional corps hours (including training): 5136.5
Additional corps projects: 93
Total MRR hours: 13,343.5

Start date: 5/14/07
End date: 9/30/07
Corps Members: 11 (including Newman)
Project Leaders: 4
On-site Staff: 3 (PD, Coordinator, Cook)
Wall tents: 9
Park apartments: 2
Kitchen trailers: 1
Vehicles: 6

Snow Trails person days at Paradise: 34
Meadow Roving person days: 69
Frontcountry Campgrounds opened: 4 (Longmire, Cougar Rock, Ohana, White River)
Campsites cleared/maintained: 346
Backcountry campsites constructed: 4 (Nickel Creek)
Historic cabins deconstructed: 1 (Ipsut)
Sherpa projects: 3+
Archaeology testing: 2 locations/ 5 days
Road culverts cleared: 222
Roadside erosion control (woodstraw, mulch, etc.): 40,660 sq ft
Oxeye Daisy eradicated: 10,422
St. John’s Wort eradicated: 12,596
Bull Thistle eradicated: 139
Dump truck loads soil moved: 5
Seedlings planted: 2,000+
Trails brushed: 39,670 ft
Trails raked: 79,700 ft
Side Ditches cleared: 7808 ft
Drains cleared: 1242
Check Steps constructed: 27
Retaining Walls constructed: 9 @ 124 ft total
Stumps removed: 110
Reroute constructed: ~3600 ft

Monday, October 29, 2007

Inside the new Jackson Visitor Center

This has nothing at all to do with volunteers--not directly, anyway--but some of you may be interested to take a peak inside the new visitor center under construction at Paradise. Some of our staff got to look inside today. Here's what it looks like right now (click for a larger photo):

Friday, October 26, 2007

Three days in San Francisco

I just returned from three productive days in San Francisco. I've been invited to participate in a regional advisory committee for the National Park Service's volunteer program, along with volunteer managers from Olympic, North Cascades, Fort Vancouver, Nez Perce, Golden Gate, and Lake Mead. What a great group of people to share ideas with! There's so much creativity in the Park Service's volunteer program right now, and we're all learning from one another.

But, we weren't in San Francisco just for the brainstorming opportunities. We had some very real issues to resolve, including budget, training, strategic priorities, and the volunteer program's role in the National Park Service's "Centennial Initiative." Here are some highlights from our meeting:

The proposed FY2008 budget includes base funding increases to support 44 VIP program manager positions service-wide—12 of them in the Pacific West Region. A few parks will receive $96,000; most will receive $48,000. Parks may use the money in any way they feel best supports their program—by funding a new position, by increasing the stature of an existing position, or by a combination of strategies.

The Status of the FY08 budget is still uncertain, with Continuing Resolutions possible through next spring. New VIP positions cannot be implemented until the budget is passed, though parks are being encouraged to be ready to advertise positions as soon as this happens. Any funding for positions that aren’t filled will be expected to be used to support volunteer programs in other ways, or will “lapse” back to the regional or national volunteer program (not to the park).

Beginning in either FY08 or FY09, both regional and park budgets will be based primarily on volunteer numbers reported by the parks. We will be initiating discussion about achieving greater consistency among parks in the ways volunteer hours are tracked—and in which hours are considered to be “volunteer” hours.

Basic volunteer program training will be offered at Golden Gate in March, which will include a “train the trainers” element for members of the VIP Advisory Committee. Similar training has been proposed for Mount Rainier in the spring, possibly May. Advanced volunteer program training will be offered next fall, possibly at Fort Vancouver in November in association with the National Interpreter’s Workshop in Portland. Basic orientation to the NPS volunteer program will be added to (or expanded in) NPS Fundamentals and other leadership classes.

Issues and Expectations
At a meeting with Regional Director Jon Jarvis, he said that “the key to the Centennial Initiative is early and visible success.” The expectation is that the increased funding we expect in the FY08 budget will lead to visible increases in staff and services, and increased volunteer opportunities and participation. “Rebuilding the NPS” (through the Centennial Initiative), he said, “will require redefining our role as a Service—more toward facilitating work by partners and cooperators, and serving, ourselves, in roles as leaders, coordinators, facilitators, and evaluators.” We are encouraged to “think outside the box,” including developing new partnerships; exploring new technologies; pursuing new recruitment options; and coordinating strategies at the Network level (i.e. in cooperation with Olympic, North Cascades, and other Columbia Cascade parks).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

67,000 hours later...

From the blog of the Northwest Interpretive Association:

The Mount Rainier Recovery Corps, led by the Student Conservation Association, has just wrapped up an incredible year of volunteerism on behalf of our beloved mountain...

A new WTA record for volunteer hours!

From the Washington Trails Association blog, The Signpost:

...As of today, WTA has hosted 742 work parties in 2007, providing a whopping 76,856 hours of volunteer service on trails! 1,850 volunteers spent at least a day with us helping trails this year. We've already surpassed our volunteer record and it's only October!

Friday, October 12, 2007

National Public Lands Day Report

After a tremendously successful summer, the first season of the Mount Rainier Recovery program came to a triumphant close recently with a final, festive day of hands-on service and celebration.

Over 150 enthusiastic individuals of all ages showed up on this chilly autumn day to honor the park and National Public Lands Day and do one more favor for the mountain. Most of the volunteers were people who had served the park this summer and were returning to connect with others who had been part of this marvelous effort. The feeling of camaraderie was evident in smiling faces and cheerful conversation as we worked on projects of re-routing a washed-out trail, clearing debris from a flooded campground, and planting willows in flood-damaged areas.

Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga spent the day smiling broadly and thanking volunteers. After a celebratory barbeque dinner, he addressed the group, expressing deep gratitude for everything the attendees and others have done to help the park this season. The numbers are still being tallied, but at least 1,600 volunteers have come to the park’s aid this year, contributing an unprecedented 67,000 hours of service. Over half the trail work completed in the park this summer was done by volunteers. The monetary value of this service donated to the park exceeds 1.3 million dollars.

SCA is honored to have been a leader in the Mount Rainier Recovery effort this year, and we’re already working to build on this momentum for even greater accomplishments at Mount Rainier in the coming year. We would like to extend our most sincere appreciation to all of you who have contributed your time, energy, or savings to SCA and the Mount Rainier Recovery program.

We’d like to leave you with a few of our favorite memories from the summer. Here's a link to several videos highlighting the experiences of some SCA members who made this summer such a success.

Jill Baum
Program Director
SCA Mount Rainier Recovery

Congressman Recognizes Volunteers at National Public Lands Day

Congressman Dicks with the Northwest Storm Recovery Coalition. From left to right: Sean Smith (NPCA), Shane Farnor (NPCA), Gina Ottoboni (The Mountaineers), David Graves (NPCA), Congressman Norm Dicks, Lauren Braden (Washington Trails Association), Eleanor Kittelson (Washington's National Park Fund), Dave Uberguaga (superintendent), Jay Satz (SCA), and Kevin Bacher (volunteer program manager). NPS photo.
National Public Lands Day had a little more meaning than usual this year at Mount Rainier, as the park continues to recover from the devastating flooding that occurred in November 2006, when 18 inches of rain fell in 36 hours and closed the park for six months.
Recovery efforts at Mount Rainier have made tremendous headway thanks to the help of over 1,500 volunteers in 2007 (a park record) and the assistance of Northwest Storm Recovery Coalition partners.
Congressman Norm Dicks (WA), who serves as chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, visited the park on Saturday, September 29th, for the third time since the flood, thanking volunteers, energizing staff, and crediting the volunteers and park service for the tremendous work that have occurred in the park’s flood recovery efforts.
Volunteers have made a huge contribution to Mount Rainier’s recovery by contributing 70,000 hours to the park this year, at a value of over $1.3 million. Congressman Dicks applauded volunteer activities at the park as a way to encourage young people to get outdoors and into parks and wilderness areas.For more information, please visit or contact Alison Bullock, public information officer, Mount Rainier National Park, at 360-569-2211 x2336.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A neighborhood Park in Vancouver gets a facelift!

From the "trail talk" section of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

"...noteworthy in itself, this was the largest trail crew work party WTA has ever held. Pretty cool! Previous record, 90 REI folks at Mount Rainier."

Congratulations to WTA for breaking the record they set on June 30th at Cougar Rock!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

If Mount Rainier could, it would give hugs, too

From the full story in The News Tribune, October 4, 2007:

Uberuaga and each of the staffers I’ve talked to in recent weeks appreciate every shovel of dirt turned, every stone lifted, every tree limb moved and every sapling replanted. In thanking the more than 100 people gathered in the gym, Uberuaga said the volunteer effort – now topping 69,000 hours – was the equivalent of hiring 83 workers for every day of the summer season.

Volunteer labor worth $1 million-plus helps rebuild Mount Rainier trails

From the full story in The Seattle Times, October 4, 2007:

The cumulative volunteer turnout — expected to total more than 1,700 people when final numbers are tabulated — will not quite match the scale of the endless procession of headlights drawn to Ray Kinsella's Iowa farm in the closing frames of the movie "Field of Dreams." Yet Kevin Bacher, manager of the volunteer program at Mount Rainier since 2002, thinks a similar, mystical magnetism pulled people into the park when news of its storm-ravaged condition became known.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

National Public Lands Day

It's pouring down rain outside my office window at Longmire. In fact, it's been doing so, for the most part, since Saturday evening, just hours after our National Public Lands Day volunteers came in off the trail. What good fortune!

National Public Lands Day was exhilerating. In all, we logged 115 volunteers, who contributed 529 hours of time on 10 projects. Volunteers worked on restoring the Longmire Campground and cleaning up Sunshine Point; planing willows at Milepost 9 and rehabilitating construction areas at Kautz Creek; repairing the Wonderland, Pinnacle Peak, High Lakes, and (on Forest Service land) the Tatoosh Lakes Trails; carrying a new backcountry toilet in to Pyramid Creek; and cleaning up campsites along Skate Creek Road. Congressman Norm Dicks kicked off the event at Longmire, and representatives from Mount Rainier National Park and the Northwest Storm Recovery Coalition wrapped it up at the end of the day with a barbecue, door prizes, and slide show.

And then the rain began!

Things are much quieter now; while some volunteer projects will continue through the winter, most will now wait till next spring, especially since the higher elevations of our park are now getting buried by snow. Now we rest from our summer labors, and finalize our budgets, and compile the statistics that document our accomplishments, and plan for next year.

Meanwhile, if you weren't able to come to our end-of-season celebration, you can celebrate vicariously by downloading your own copy of our "volunteer scrapbook," the PowerPoint presentation I shared on Saturday evening. You just might find your own picture included! If not, make a note on your calendar to come join us again next year--and keep watching this site for volunteer program updates.

We've moved!

Mount Rainier’s volunteer program blog will now be here, at I’ve been reluctant to make the move, believing strongly that a National Park Service website should stay on the National Park Service server. Unfortunately, the tools for maintaining an effective blog just aren’t available on our server. The new site will provide options for comments and feedback, better search capabilities, improved cross-linking with other blog sites, automatic archiving (something I currently have to do manually), and easier access to archived posts. It will also be much quicker, easier, and reliable for me to use—and as busy as I am during “high season,” that can make the difference between having time to update you all on program news, and not having time to do so.

I will gradually copy the summer’s blog postings to this new site, and will leave them archived on the old site as well. You’ll also continue to find all of the other features of our volunteer program at the NPS address,, including job listings and general information. Photos are still there too, though now that I’ve made the switch to Google’s blogspot, its photo management cousin, Picasa, looks tempting as well. We’ll see.

What do you think? This new website is interactive. Leave a comment and let me know!

Public Lands Day: A Flood of Help!

From the NW Parks and Public Lands Storm Recovery Coalition blog:

This last Saturday, the NW Storm Recovery Coalition hosted a very successful National Public Lands Day event at Mount Rainier National Park.

In total, 115 volunteers contributed a total of 529 hours. Teams of volunteers worked on ten service projects that included trail repair, campground restoration/clean up and other projects throughout the park. The day started with a speech and send off by Representative Norm Dicks. Representative Dicks has been a strong supporter of park storm recovery making several trips to the park over the past year.

That evening a celebratory gathering included an informal dinner and presentations at Columbia Crest Elementary School near Ashford. Phil Freeman, owner of Copper Creek Restaurant and Resort in Ashford, presented proceeds from the Music for the Mountain fundraiser held this past spring totaling over $5,000 to Mount Rainier National Park (via Washington’s National Park Fund), the Nisqually Land Trust, and Friends of the Upper Nisqually.

The NW Storm Recovery Coalition wishes to extend its thanks again everyone who helped out this past summer.

Park Honors Volunteers

From the full story in the Eatonville Dispatch, October 2, 2007:

Over 1,500 people gave their time and sweat to repairs, amounting to over 67,800 hours valued at over $1,290,600 in savings to the park. Ninety volunteers did additional work Saturday before the lunch and program held at Columbia Crest Elementary School.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

America the Wild

Hey, check out this radio interview by Sean Smith, of the National Parks Conservation Association, that aired on a nationwide talk show called "America the Wild!" Choose Segment 2 from Show #104 on September 29.

Mount Rainier Recovery

From the website of the Student Conservation Association:

The first season of the Mount Rainier Recovery program came to a triumphant close last Saturday with a final, festive day of hands-on service and celebration. Some 150 enthusiastic individuals showed up on this chilly northwest autumn day to honor the park on National Public Lands Day by donning their warm layers and setting out to do one more favor for the mountain. Find pictures and stories soon on the park's volunteer blog page!

After a celebratory barbeque dinner, Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga addressed the group, expressing deep gratitude for everything that the attendees and hundreds of other citizens have done to help the park this season. Here are some of the impressive numbers:

• Volunteers: at least 1,600
• Hours of service: over 67,000
• Estimated value of volunteer work: exceeding $1.3 million
• Portion of trailwork completed by volunteers: over half
• Campsites cleared/maintained: 335
• Days of Meadow Protection duty: 69
• Road culverts cleared: 222
• Roadside erosion control areas: 10,800 sq ft+
• Trail brushed: 31,970 ft+
• Trail raked: 59,560 ft+
• Check steps constructed: 27+
• Trail reroute constructed: ~3600 ft

SCA is proud and honored to have been a leader in the Mount Rainier Recovery effort this year, and we are already working to build on this momentum toward even greater accomplishments at Mount Rainier in the coming year. We would like to extend our most sincere appreciation to all of you have contributed your time, energy, or savings to SCA and the Mount Rainier Recovery program. See you next year!

In our view: Clearing the Trails

Complete story at The Columbian, October 2, 2007:

There is some heartwarming news in the wake of all the destruction. Some 1,500 volunteers from all over the world contributed a total of some 67,000 hours of their time to rebuilding trails, bridges and campsites in Mount Rainier National Park... The 93-mile Wonderland Trail that encircles the Northwest's signature peak is among the routes now open, thanks to their work.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Mount Rainier Volunteers Work to Reopen Trails, Repair Damages

Complete story at The News Tribune, September 28, 2007:

“If we didn’t have the volunteer assistance, a lot of miles of trail most likely would not have been open or would be opening now,” said Carl Fabiani, the park’s trail supervisor. “If you count all the youth corps and volunteer support we had, it was at least half the work we got done.”

Volunteers Rescue Ravaged Mount Rainier National Park

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 28, 2007:

The Mount Rainier recovery estimate was $36 million, but volunteerism and fiscal management likely will bring costs down, possibly allowing funding to shift to other hard-hit national parks like Olympic or North Cascades, said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Calm before the Storm...

National Public Lands Day is just four days away. More than 120 people have signed up so far, and there's still room for more! Congressman Norm Dicks may join us at Longmire to kick off the day, and other representatives are considering doing so as well. It'll be a great way to end this Season of the Volunteer, adding several hundred more hours to a total, now past 67,000, that has already shattered all previous records. Meanwhile, volunteers and park rangers continue to work hard on trails, campgrounds, and restoration projects, knowing that winter's snows may be less than a month away in some places.

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." - Anne Bradstreet, Meditations Divine and Moral (1655)

Volunteers work in Mount Rainier's rugged backcountry

From The Olympian, September 25, 2007:

The sounds of traffic melt away just as the sounds of the creek burble up the trail. The creek pours through narrow slots in giant, bedrock boulders when it first comes into view. At that moment, you stop thinking about the hike back up to the car — and start thinking about what wonders are ahead. On this day, the biggest wonder was a crew of five Student Conservation Association workers.

Celebrate National Public Lands Day this Saturday

From the Washington Trails Association, September 25, 2007:

Fall is a great time to volunteer on trails. Okay, so it's not completely sunny out, but think how much cooler you'll be as you heft those grub hoes and Pulaskis while you're helping fix our trails.

Special dinner celebrates hard work of volunteers

From The News Tribune, September 25, 2007:

People will have one last chance for the season to do flood recovery work at Mount Rainier National Park on Sept. 29, which is National Public Lands Day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Trail Notes

From John Walsh, Paradise Meadow Rover:

New snow on the mountain - certainly a harbinger of winter. Quite beautiful to see. When arriving at Paradise, clouds parted enough providing spectacular views of the mountain. Trees appeared to be "frocked" -- it was quite beautiful. Snow actually on the ground and slush on the trails as you approached Pebble Creek. Trails above Pebble were interesting, new snow covered normal routes so a little dicey up there. Coming down was rewarded with some cool things; actually sat and watched a pika from about 2 feet away, had not had that opportunity before as they usually are pretty elusive; also watched a falcon hunting the meadow. He apparently had very little concern I was there and swooped fairly low over me. The best was as I was standing above the Golden Gate trail, I heard this very pronounced "swoosh ... swoosh ... swoosh" and turned east just in time to be face to face with a very large bird of prey flying directly at me about 10 feet off the ground. He shot like a fighter plane right over my head and dove down the hill with the switch backs. Very cool ...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rebuilding Mount Rainier

"It's a good workout, and you don't have to pay gym prices," [Derek] Mulvey said as he walked off to a boulder field a few hundred feet away for more rocks. "And I want to make sure that there are trails to hike on Mount Rainier."

Read more of this article by Chester Allen on The Olympian’s website!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Summer cools down, repairs heat up!

The summer is quickly coming to an end, but storm recovery work remains in high gear.

Read more on the Northwest Parks and Public Lands Storm Recovery Coalition's blog!

Field Notes

  • Registration for National Public Lands Day is up to around 80 people--not bad for still being 10 days out! There's lots of room for more, so remember to sign up here, either for a work project, or for the evening barbecue and celebration, or both.
  • Thank you to all of our sponsors! Numerous local businesses are helping us make National Public Lands Day exceptional. Partners so far include the Student Conservation Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Washington's National Park Fund, Washington Trails Association, Mountaineers, REI, Mount Rainier Guest Services, International Mountain Guides, Ranger Doug's Enterprises, Starbucks, HSBC Bank, Nature Valley, Glacier Water Company, PCC Natural Markets, and Columbia Crest School.
  • Documented volunteers numbers are now up to 1,529 individuals who have contributed 56,773 hours of service. (Why do I keep saying "documented hours?" Many volunteers are still working, and won't turn in their hours till next month. Some have yet to turn in their records for August. Some turn in their hours in one lump sum at the end of the year. A few have to be reminded a time or two before their numbers come in. So, the total will definitely be higher... but we're already more than 600 individuals, and almost 13,000 hours, over last year's totals through September 30!)
  • Statistics quantifying the work we've done are hard to track. For instance, I asked Trails Foreman Carl Fabiani a few days ago, "how many miles of trail have we repaired this year?" He looked at me quizically and said, "260?" Every trail in the park has had work this year, though obviously, some more than others. SCA's Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative, alone, has documented 31,970 feet of brushing... 59,560 feet of raking... 2,410 feet of tread repaired... 7,328 feet of side ditches cleared... 1,127 drains cleared... 8 retaining walls constructed... more than 104 stumps pulled... 23,157 invasive plants pulled... and 222 road culverts cleared. What do these numbers really mean? I have no idea. But they certainly sound impressive.
  • Speaking of accomplishments, here's a (very) preliminary summary of our volunteer program's highlights this year.
  • In the larger context, here's a PowerPoint presentation about Mount Rainier's flood recovery efforts, including the work completed by both park staff and volunteers. (Warning: It's 26.2 megabytes in size.)
  • And finally, for those of you planning to join our end-of-season projects on National Public Lands Day, here's a little teaser of something you might see on the trail that day... it's just one of many surprises that we have planned throughout the day for those who participate. See you there!