Saturday, May 26, 2007

Restoring Longmire Campground

Today’s volunteer project took place in the historic Longmire Campground, once a center of activity for visitors to Mount Rainier from the 1930s through the 1960s. It was one of those miraculous Washington days that start out cloudy with a chance of rain, but end up sunny and warm. Our goal: prepare the historic Longmire Campground for residence by our summer SCA flood recovery corps, and begin what promises to be a long process to restore the campground to its former glory. Someday the site will be used by school groups, volunteer crews, and picnickers, along with the scattering of park employees who live there now. Before that can happen, the old rock-lined paths, rock-and-mortar water spigots, and picnic tables must be excavated from the ubiquitous layer of moss and duff that has buried everything over the years.

Today’s crew of 5 volunteers and 8 SCA corps members dug into the challenge with enthusiasm, raking trails and campsites, spreading gravel, cutting and moving logs to clear paths, and constructing platforms for the SCA crew’s wall tents. To preserve the historic character of the campground, all of the work was done by hand—no chainsaws or tractors, just crosscut saws and wheelbarrows and carefully positioning rocks and logs to minimize the effects of our presence. The team took this low-impact mandate seriously. About 1:30, a group of ATVers snuck in through the back gate of the park and, surprised to find people working in the campground, cut deep ruts into the moss as they beat a hasty retreat. By 4:00 when the day’s work was done, the ruts had been carefully smoothed over, the winter’s windfall had been raked away, and the site looked better than it had before the interlopers arrived.

The rest of our SCA Recovery Corps arrives on June 1st, just in time to help out with the biggest public volunteer project day of the year so far, National Trails Day on June 2nd. In the meantime, we have a major greenhouse expansion to prepare for, and snow-covered trails to mark at Paradise. On Thursday, we’re working with a group from Evergreen State College to shovel out facilities at Sunrise in preparation for the summer. We have more greenhouse, trail repair, exotic plant removal, wilderness restoration, and roadside assistance projects in the final stages of planning.

But first, we’ll be back in the Longmire Campground again tomorrow, chipping away at a project that will build a personal connection between the volunteers of today and the visitors and park rangers of the 1930s. In a year or two, people will be able to visit and say, "my grandparents camped here fifty years ago." Fifty years from now, their grandchildren will say, "my grandparents helped make it possible again."

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