Friday, March 30, 2007

Field Notes

I am constantly amazed both by how much support we continue to receive from the community, and by how much work it's been to prepare for this summer's expanded volunteer effort.

In the first category, I've spent yesterday and today coordinating a letter to send out under the bannerhead of the Northwest Recovery Coalition, the partnership we've set up between Mount Rainier National Park and the Student Conservation Association. My SCA counterpart, Ali Saperstein, and I wanted to make sure that we had every name possible in that mailing list, so I went back through my notes from the past few weeks to ensure that I'd included everyone who'd contacted me. That ended up taking most of my morning, because I had about 40 new names to add to the mailing list. The support is literally overwhelming, and I apologize again to all of you whom I have not yet called back in person.

In the second category, our staff has been busy this week working out the logistics of managing and supporting our flood recovery teams, both those we're hiring through the Student Conservation Association and those who will come from the general public. Our recovery funding is not unlimited, and will probably have to last for two years, so there's been some careful planning involved to decide what resources to commit to this summer's program and what to save for next year. Then we have to figure out where to house all of our extra employees, interns, and volunteers, given that housing in the park is extremely limited. (If anyone has good suggestions for inexpensive temporary housing near the park, give us a call.) Our SCA "field teams" will probably spend the summer living in platform tents, but there's been much discussion about the pros and cons of staging these resources at the old Longmire Campground versus the fields surrounding the Tahoma Woods Education Center. Cooking facilities, bathrooms, and showers must be found or brought in to support the crews. And then we have to think through the implications of bringing in large groups of public volunteers for multiple nights on top of that, something we've rarely done in the past but expect to do regularly this year. The devil is always in the details, and the details consume a lot of time.

That being said, I'm looking forward to having full-time help starting next week! Jill Baum, the Student Conservation Association's program manager for our flood recovery effort, will be starting April 5th, along with Will Ehrenclou, who will be helping with program logistics. I look forward to introducing them to you in this blog. Their first priorities will be to finish resolving plans for our field camp; organizing our massive list of volunteer requests; and starting to put together a calendar of specific projects to match volunteers up with.

I sent out a letter to all of our park staff this afternoon, asking them to contribute to our calendar of volunteer projects. Hopefully, this list will now begin to grow at an increasingly fast rate. The fact that the snow is finally beginning to melt in the lowest elevations of the park will help tremendously. I've also sent a letter to our existing volunteers, letting them know what's coming this summer and expressing our hope that those experienced volunteers would serve in positions of leadership for the new folks.

There's a lot of work yet to be done... but hopefully, within the next week or two, we'll have the summer off the ground and our first public volunteer projects on the calendar. Stay tuned.