Sunday, May 13, 2007

The season begins!

And, they're off! May 5th felt like the starting gun for a race that we've been preparing for for six months. Everyone was so happy to be back in the park once again--none more so than the employees, who've all breathed a great sigh of relief that the first part of our recovery effort has been completed.

Quite a few volunteers helped us out on opening day, interpreting the events of November 2006 and welcoming back park visitors. We're grateful for their assistance. We'll be looking for more individuals to fill this role in coming months, so watch our long-term projects page for details.

Much flood-recovery work remains to be done, and now that we've started running, we still have a marathon to complete. Roads and trails are still melting out all over the park. Summer staff members are arriving daily, getting trained and oriented, and helping us plan for the ongoing recovery efforts that will last through this summer and next. Many of those plans include volunteers.

Many volunteer projects have already been identified, filling a healthy piece of the calendar, especially in June. Many more projects are in the planning stages and should be added to the list soon. In some cases, we simply need to work out the details of when supervisors will be available and trained and where to get supplies. In some cases, we have to wait for the snow to melt before we can properly assess what needs to be done. In a few cases, especially projects involving the park's maintenance staff, the supervisors involved have simply been overwhelmed with the job of getting the road to Paradise open by May 5th, and have not had time to plan beyond that yet.

This will change dramatically in coming weeks. Meanwhile, the projects we've already posted have been receiving a very positive response. There are still a few that haven't completely filled, and more are being added almost every day, so keep checking the list if you haven't yet found a way to get involved. Trail maintenance and other backcountry projects, including campsite repairs, will be added as the trails melt out and we can properly schedule projects. Lots of exotic species management projects are in the works, and we hope to add a full schedule of culvert maintenance in coming weeks too. Some of these may not sound very exciting at first glance, but all of them serve critical roles in the protection of park resources. What good are pristine meadows if they fill up with dandelions, and what good are our million-dollar road repairs if the culverts that protect them remain clogged with debris? These are projects that individuals can point to with pride and say, "I helped make that happen!"

We have many long-term projects in the works as well. Just this past week we've advertised for individuals to help with projects from library assistance to groundskeeping. Our Meadow Rover program trains individuals to patrol Paradise and Sunrise, assisting hikers and reminding them of the importance of staying on the trails in those sensitive subalpine areas. We'll be offering training in this program at both Paradise and Sunrise on June 23. We've scheduled projects to locate and pack out the remnants of old telephone lines, water pipes, and plane crashes in the park's wilderness areas. We're exploring the possibility of training teams to maintain backcountry cabins, or to help with the restoration of historic rock walls built by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s.

Also remember that our partners with the Washington Trails Association are sponsoring volunteer projects in the park, and have a list of their own projects that you can sign up for. Olympic National Park has its own set of projects, many of them related to flood recovery, that may be of interest. In the greater Mount Rainier watershed, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge have volunteer programs too. There's plenty of work to be done, and we look forward to seeing you out there!

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