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