Sunday, April 22, 2007

Field Notes

The volunteer program for summer 2007 continues to accelerate. As you’ll see on our project page, the calendar is starting to fill up with projects, especially trail repair, that will be accomplished this summer with the help of volunteers. We are immensely grateful for that assistance, and look forward to working with people who care about Mount Rainier as much as we do!

Most of the projects on the calendar so far are marked “full,” “coming soon,” or “to be determined.” There are good reasons for this. Most of the projects are listed “full” as soon as they’re posted because they represent existing relationships between the park and volunteer groups who have helped us out on a recurring basis in the past. By this writing, we’ve received offers of volunteer assistance from upwards of 2,000 new individuals and group members, and we hope to find projects for as many of those people as possible. But remember that Mount Rainier already worked with 924 volunteers last year, most of whom will be returning this summer. Supervisors have, naturally, assigned their first volunteer projects to the groups they already have established relationships with.
More projects will be forthcoming, and hopefully soon. There will certainly be lots more to do on the park’s trails than is currently represented on the list. These projects will proliferate as the snow melts over the next two months and the actual trail damage becomes visible. That will also help to resolve some of the “to be determined” designations. We won’t be able to assign specific projects on specific dates until we know when sites will be snow free and accessible.
My SCA counterparts and I have been meeting with park supervisors to come up with a wide range of other projects to add to the list as well. The ideas are almost endless. Every project, of course, requires planning. What needs to be done? What tools and supplies are required? Do we have these things on hand, or do we need to obtain them? Do we have enough money in our budget to obtain them, or do we need to wait for fundraising to occur first? Is the project eligible for flood recovery funds, or does it need to be paid for out of general operating funds? What level of supervision and training will be required? Can the project be done by a group independently, or will it require the assistance of Park Service crews? When are such crews available? Will prep work be needed, or follow-up? What priority does the project have in relation to other projects? Will campsites be needed for visiting volunteers? If so, how many, and are spaces available? Will volunteers need to be readily identifiable as volunteers (e.g. patrolling trails at Sunrise), and if so, how can we accomplish that? What safety issues need to be taken into consideration? How about weather contingencies? Will transportation be needed to the work site, and if so, how will that be arranged? How strenuous is the project, and is it suitable for families or groups? Could the project have an impact on sensitive natural or cultural resources, and if so, how can these impacts be mitigated?
You can see very quickly that planning a massive volunteer project is not, well, quick. Yet we are confident that, slowly, we’ll get there, and in another month or two there will be opportunities for volunteers to get involved all over the park on an almost daily basis. Meanwhile, the first of our SCA crew leaders has arrived for the summer, and more will be arriving shortly. The road from Nisqually Entrance to Paradise will finally open, after six months of closure, on May 5. The Student Conservation Association is perfecting an online signup program that should allow you to register for volunteer projects right from your computer, without having to send information to my already overburdened e-mail box. SCA staff are also helping out tremendously with the task of returning your phone calls and e-mail inquiries. (Imagine returning phone calls from 2,000 people without such help!)
Exciting things are happening. Keep watching this website for updates as they occur.

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