Friday, December 19, 2008

Seeking year-long curriculum-based education intern

Mount Rainier's education program is seeking a motivated individual to fill a year-long Student Conservation Association internship, starting immediately. A complete description of the position follows. Apply online on the SCA website, and also give Education Program Manager Anne Doherty a call at 360-569-6039. This is a rare position that is both long-term and fully-funded, so spread the word and send in those applications!

Education Program Intern Position Code : 7156

Mount Rainier National Park is a 235,000-acre park in Washington state containing rugged mountainous terrain, pristine lakes, rivers and streams, ecological zones ranging from forested lowlands to alpine tundra and an active volcano with the largest single-peak glacial system in the contiguous United States. It is also the fifth oldest national park and includes outstanding examples of park rustic architecture and early park master planning. Mount Rainier has an international Sister Mountain relationship with Mount Fuji in Japan.

The Park’s Curriculum-Based Education Program serves K-University level teachers and their students visiting the park and Education Center on field trips. We also offer a variety of professional development opportunities for teachers, including single to multi-day curriculum-based and review workshops, presentations at professional education conferences and events, and in Summer 2008 we are piloting a Teacher-Ranger-Teacher (TRT) Program to assist with curriculum development for the new, multi-year, international Mount Rainier-Mount Fuji Sister Mountain Curriculum Project & Teacher Exchange Workshop Program.

The Intern will work alongside the TRTs and Park Education Staff to research and develop international interdisciplinary middle school curriculum about Mount Rainier and Mount Fuji.

Develop and present curriculum-based education programming, in the field and in the new Education Center; help research and develop new Education Center programs; help create additional educational materials as needed or assigned; assist with any teacher workshops scheduled to begin during that time. Primary education program topics include geology of Mount Rainier (volcanology, glaciers), life zones ecology (plant and animal adaptations), old growth/lowland forest, upland forest, subalpine zones, National Park Service Mission and Careers, park history, sustainable design of the Education Center, current park research, Leave No Trace, service learning projects, and winter ecology (depending on season of internship).

Position Type: Env Ed - Environmental Education

Required: Must have a valid driver's license to perform duties or drive site vehicle.

What skills are required for this position?
Valid driver's license; ability and willingness to undergo a required criminal history background check; experience or knowledge in curriculum - based education programming for a broad range of ages; ability to lead programs in the classroom and in the field; ability to share work and living space amicably.

A personal vehicle is required since there is no public transportation in this remote area. However, the Intern will live within walking distance of Education Center. A government vehicle is provided for work-related travel.

What skills are desired for this position?
First aid/CPR certification, especially in remote field locations; knowledge of geology, Pacific Northwest ecosystems, winter ecology and National Park Service mission; computer and web design skills; knowledge of minimum impact principles and practices; hiking, snowshoeing and backpacking experience.

Training Provided:
Various on-the-job training opportunities will be available, depending on workload, position needs, Intern’s personal interest, and budget constraints. These may include: attending and presenting at professional education conferences and events, interpretation workshops, job shadow and career exploration opportunities, grant research and writing, CPR/First Aid, and others (types and frequency of training opportunities vary from season to season and year to year). There will be a basic level of safety, park and program policies and protocol, computer security, and winter training, including snowshoe walks.

Educational/Recreational Opportunities:
Opportunity to help research and write grant proposals. (See Educational and Training Opportunities.)

On personal time, there are many miles of roads and trails in and around the park to explore. The park is also adjacent to a variety of other agency-managed public lands that offer a variety of recreational opportunities, including skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, etc. There are also many different educational opportunities related to history, wildlife, museums, etc. between ½-2 hours’ driving time away in the many small towns, cities, and major metropolitan areas of Tacoma and Seattle.

Photo of "volunteers in action" wins National Public Lands Day photo contest

A photo of one of our volunteers participating in National Public Lands Day on September 27, 2008 was selected as a winner of the annual NPLD Photo Contest! Volunteer Program Manager Kevin Bacher's photo of Bintou Sangare brushing the Snow Lake Trail will be featured on the NPLD website and in related publications--and has earned Kevin a gift basket from sponsor Aveeno!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fundraising efforts support volunteers at Mount Rainier

The News Tribune has a nice article today about the fundraising efforts of Washington's National Park Fund, which, among other projects, is raising money to support volunteer efforts at Mount Rainier. If enough money is raised, donations will help pay for a seasonal volunteer coordinator and campground manager, who will work with the volunteer program manager (me) to plan and implement a strategic plan for our program. We've made significant gains in the wake of the great floods of November 2006, literally doubling the number of people who participate in our program, and greatly expanding our range of volunteer opportunities. We've done this with the invaluable assistance of the Student Conservation Association and its Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative. Now, we hope to make volunteerism a key part of every program in the park.

Here's an excerpt from the article, the full text of which is available on The News Tribune's website:

For Mount Rainier, the fund and park staff have identified six programs and projects valued at more than $230,000. The projects include efforts to connect more children and parents to the park through camping, to help restore Paradise meadows, to do a climate change study and to assist the volunteer program. “Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could raise $1 million and then fund everything we’ve identified as a priority and more,” said Eleanor Kittleson, the group’s executive director.... Even with the economy in the tank, Kittleson remains confident the fund will be successful because of the approach they have taken. In the past, the message was “help us preserve our parks,” she said. “I’m saying that we’ll be more successful if we can establish a goal and tell a donor exactly where their money is going.”
Donations can be made through The Fund's website.

Snow safety and avalanche course open to volunteers

From Mike Gauthier:

The ranger division is coordinating a Snow Safety and Avalanche course on Jan 5-7.

The Level 1 Snow Safety and and Avalanche Course is a 24 hour curriculum.

This is an excellent opportunity to build a foundation in snow safety and other avalanche related skills. This course is designed for those who regularly work in and around snow, whether on roads or in the field. It's also a great course for those who issue permits and work directly with the public, or for those who provide other visitor services (like publications) or supervise field staff. Even if you've taken a snow safety course before, consider this an opportunity to refresh your skills and get up-to-date information on snow safety, avalanche assessment, avalanche avoidance, and rescue.

Students who successfully complete the course will be Level 1 certified by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education ( AIARE ).

Please let Stefan Lofgren know if you have questions or would like to attend the course. Space is limited and we expect it to fill. Tuition for it is $275 per student.

Mike Gauthier
Mount Rainier National Park
360 569 2211

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Photos updated

Finally! Our Picasa photo page has been updated with all the latest and greatest photos of volunteers in action, including those from this past summer. Check it out at!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter Operations Training

Winter Operations Training on Friday the 12th was well-attended by staff and volunteers, in spite of the heavy snowfall. Here's a photo from Pete Sabin. Thanks to all who attended!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Do Your Part

Following up yesterday's post about the article in Backpacker Magazine about climate change and flooding at Mount Rainier, here's a website that provides great information and resources to park staff and volunteers about how individuals can participate in the effort to reduce the effects of climate change. Mount Rainier National Park is deeply involved, and among other things, will be doing an energy inventory to assess ways of improving our efficiency.

While you're roving the meadows at Paradise, encouraging people to reduce their literal footprints on the fragile subalpine ecosystem, consider also encouraging them to reduce their carbon footprint as well--one of the greatest long-term threats to that environment.
Here's a few tips from the downloadable "Do Your Park Visitor Tip Sheet" (also available at high resolution for printing):
  1. Emissions from personal vehicles make up the majority of global warming pollution generated in national parks. When possible, carpool or take public transportation to the parks, and use shuttles within the parks.

  2. Help reduce energy consumed by park buildings. Consider simple actions such as not leaving the water running when brushing teeth or turning off lights where appropriate.

  3. Recycled paper, plastics and aluminum use 55-95% less energy than products made from scratch.

  4. It is better to turn your car off than leave it running. Letting your car idle for just 20 seconds burns more gasoline than turning your car off and on again.

  5. Americans buy about 28 billion water bottles every year. Energy is needed to fill, transport, and refrigerate the bottles and then recover, recycle, or dispose of them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thunder on the Mountain

Backpacker Magazine has an excellent article in the January issue about the 2006 floods at Mount Rainier and their long-term implications. The article focuses mainly on the flood damage and its relation to climate change, but also in several places mentions our volunteer efforts in rebuilding.

The magazine has a section on their website for Mount Rainier, but to read the article, you'll need to pick up the magazine in the store or at your library. Here's an exerpt:

Paul Kennard, Rainier's geomorphologist, or river specialist, speaks with a scientist's detatched calm about the guillotine suspended over Mt. Rainier National Park. He sees debris flows more frequently now--about four a year for the past five years--and says conditions are ripe for a cataclysmic flood. But his biggest worry isn't a flood so much as what researchers don't yet understand: namely, how bad the storms may get, and how soon they'll arrive.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mike Gauthier heading to DC

Here's yet another ranger heading for bigger and better things! "Gator" (pictured with Director Mary Bomar after the 2007 flood) has been around forever, and he probably knows the upper mountain as well or better than anyone else in existence. He's also been a key partner to our volunteer program--always incredibly supportive, and always eager to work with volunteers to make the climbing program more effective and more responsive to the public. He's an innovator who first came up with the idea of using blogs to communicate with the public; his climbing blog is now one of the major points of contact between the park and the climbing community. He will be sorely missed in the park and on the Mountain.

This from Chief Ranger Chuck Young:

Please join me in congratulating Mike Gauthier for being selected as one of two NPS recipients nationwide of the Bevinettto Congressional Fellowship. He will be going to Washington DC in January to begin the two year program

The Bevinetto Fellowship is a two-year training and development program within the National Park Service’s Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs. During the first year, the Bevinetto Fellow works on the staff of a member, committee, or a support agency/organization of the Congress and reports to the staff director of the assigned office. During the second year of the fellowship, the Bevinetto Fellow reports to the deputy assistant director, Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs, and assists in the development, coordination, and implementation of the National Park Service legislative affairs program, including Congressional relations and controlled correspondence. Following the two year program, recipients of this Fellowship may apply for or are placed in management level positions, usually as Superintendents.

Mike has served at Mount Rainier National Park for 18 years. One might say he's "grown up" in the park's climbing program, and has served as the Climbing Program Manager for the past year and a half. Mike started his career with the Park Service at OLYM in 1985 and has worked at Mount Rainier with the climbing and SAR program since 1990. He was instrumental in establishing the Commercial Guiding Prospectus which resulted in the park successfully transitioning from one climbing guide company to three in 2007, working on the Camp Muir plan and improvements, establishing the current climbing fee program, and perhaps most importantly, establishing a safe and effective NPS mountaineering program here at Mount Rainier which protects park staff, visitors, and the mountain.

Mike's experience and outreach to climbing groups such as the Mountaineers, guides, media, and commercial guiding companies have firmly placed him in an "icon" status for Mount Rainier. When one discusses the climbing program at Mount Rainier, Mike's name inevitably comes up. He has never lost sight, however, of the overall mission of the National Park Service and how the climbing and SAR program here fits into the overall NPS vision. Most recently, Mike assisted park operations by helping formulate an avalanche plan, leading the multi-divisional effort to move out of the old JVC, serving on interdivisional committees, and coordinating parkwide training in SAR and avalanche safety. Although Mike's insight, experience, and quality work will definitely be missed here, he will provide a solid field perspective to the NPS legislative affairs office and the Directorate, and whatever future management positions he pursues.

Mike will be leaving for DC in early January, but will be back in February to move his household good. We will be planning a proper sendoff for Mike sometime when he is here in February.
R. Chuck Young
Chief Ranger

Monday, December 8, 2008

Uberuaga to serve as Acting Superintendent at Yosemite

Just got this in our park mail. This is big news for Mount Rainier and for our volunteer program, as Dave is deeply involved in many current issues at the park, from Carbon River planning to development of the volunteer program. Dave received a Federal Land Managers Award this summer for his support of volunteers at Mount Rainier. At the same time, Randy King, who will temporarily take Dave's place, is equally supportive of our volunteer program, so I do not anticipate any changes in that regard. This is an excellent career opportunity for both Dave and Randy.

Yosemite News Release
December 8, 2008
For Immediate Release

David "Dave" Uberuaga (You burr ah gah) will serve as acting superintendent of Yosemite National Park, Calif, beginning January 4, 2009. He arrives at the park as Superintendent Mike Tollefson retires from federal service.

Uberuaga, a 24-year veteran of the National Park Service (NPS) is the current superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park, Wash. He will move to Yosemite Valley and assume Tollefson’s place until the selection of the next superintendent for the park is selected by Regional Director Jonathan B. Jarvis and the Director of the NPS.

While Uberuaga is stationed in California, his deputy, Randy King, will serve as superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park.

"I have enormous confidence in Dave," Jarvis said in making the appointment. "Dave and Mike have served together on leadership councils within the NPS and their relationship ensures a smooth transition."

Among the challenges Uberuaga has worked on this year at Mount Rainier is the rehabilitation of the historic Paradise Inn and completion of a new park visitor center also at Paradise. He will be following Tollefson who has shepherded the rehabilitation of Yosemite Falls and Tunnel View.
"It will be difficult to fill Mike’s shoes," Uberuaga said. "He retires having achieved tremendous success and a solid relation with the community, and it will be a pleasure to work collaboratively with him as he assumes the position of President of the Yosemite Fund."

The selection of a permanent superintendent at Yosemite will take several months. The superintendent is a Senior Executive Service (SES) position, the highest career level in the federal government. The rigorous application process is open to SES qualified individuals within the NPS.

"Dave’s a solid manager," Tollefson said. "I can’t think of a better way to start my new position with the Yosemite Fund then by working with him."


Roving update

As you can see on our Paradise webcam, we have snow at Paradise! Just a few inches at this point, but it does help both with meadow protection and with our hopes for a good snowshoeing and skiing season.

Several of you came up last weekend to help rove the parking areas and trails near the new JVC. THANK YOU! If this snow continues, we may not need the same next weekend. However, remember that winter operations training will be on Friday, and that there are other valuable things to keep rovers busy. Here's the latest from Curt Jacquot:

The [Natural and Cultural Resources] staff roped off the area quite well and there were no problems with the planted beds near the VC this weekend. However, we could still use help educating visitors about the amount of snow needed to allow off trail use without damage to the plants in the meadow. We also might need help removing the poles and ropes soon before they become a safety hazard! The other current issue is educating the public regarding the three foxes who now roam the Paradise parking lot continually looking and often receiving human food.

Remember that the down hill gate at Longmire currently closes in the evening at 5:30 PM. The uphill gate opens once plow operations have ended usually by 9 AM but sometimes later. If you still want to come up let me know when you will be coming. Note that the Paradise VC is only open weekends and Holidays.

Thanks, everyone!
On an unrelated note, check out these awesome photos of lenticular clouds over Mount Rainier, on the KOMO News Blog.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Low Snow May Impact Winter Activities at Mount Rainier

December 5, 2008
Contact: Curt Jacquot, West District Interpreter, (360) 569-2211 ext. 3312

Visitors eager to enjoy winter activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding are finding Paradise a little too warm. “We usually have about 50 inches of snow on the ground at Paradise by December 1,” said Ranger Julia Pinnix. “Right now we only have an inch or two.” The park requires visitors to stay on trails to avoid damaging fragile alpine plants. The snowplay area at Paradise will not be opened until enough snow has accumulated to protect the plants beneath.

Snowshoe Walks
Join a Park Ranger to learn the art of snowshoeing and discover how the plants and animals of Mount Rainier adapt to world record snowfalls. If there is not enough snow for snowshoeing, interpretive programs will still be offered at the scheduled times and dates. During the Christmas-New Year’s break, the guided walks will be offered daily beginning December 20 through January 4. From January 10 through March 29 the walks will be conducted on weekends and holidays. The walks are offered at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign up at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise beginning one hour before the start time.

Organized groups of 13-25 people may reserve a snowshoe walk in advance. Group snowshoe walks begin at 10:30 a.m. For more information or to make a reservation, call (360) 569-2211, ext. 3314.

Snowshoe walks cover approximately 1.5 miles and last up to 2 hours. Snowshoes are provided, or visitors may use their own. A donation of $1 per person is asked to help defray the cost of snowshoe maintenance. Snowshoeing is a moderately strenuous activity, and participants must be at least 8 years old. Remember to wear sturdy boots and dress in layers.

“These walks are a fun way to try out a new skill while enjoying the beautiful landscape of Mount Rainier,” said park superintendent Dave Uberuaga.

Curriculum-based snowshoe education walks are available at no charge to school groups on weekdays through the park’s Education Program. These programs are tailored to meet the teacher’s identified learning objectives. Contact Fawn Bauer at (360) 569-6037 for more information or to schedule your field trip. The park is also offering a Winter Workshop for teachers on January 16-18.

Please check the Mount Rainier National Park website at for more information about field trips and teacher workshops.

Please remember that roads in the park may be closed at any time due to hazardous conditions. General park information is available at or by calling 360-569-2211.


Updates on Paradise roving needs

Here's an update on the urgent fencing project at Paradise, from Josh Drown at our greenhouse:

I was able to install fencing in all of what I see to be the highest priority areas yesterday afternoon. Even the newly planted areas I considered lower priority however, visitors were walking into to collect snow and look at trees just past the end of my lines. At this point I'm looking at fencing off all the planted areas on all sides of the Visitor Center from the walkways and roads. I ran out of daylight yesterday and would estimate only about an hour of work left for one person. Sounds like those of you interested will be available this afternoon so I will be at Paradise at 1:00 if anyone would like to have any input and discuss options for maintenance and removal. I am willing maintain these fences but would require assistance monitoring as I work down in Tahoma Woods. I will post pictures at the end of the day for those not able to go up.
And also this from Curt Jacquot, the visitor center supervisor at Paradise:
Another Paradise parking lot task is to contact skiers and snowboarders and advise them of where they need to go to avoid damaging vegetation (and related regulations). We also need to ask sliders to take their devices back to their vehicles until the snowplay area is ready to go. VIP's can stop in at the JVC desk for the latest information and/or advice we have.
If you plan to come up to Paradise to rove, I recommend dropping Curt an e-mail or giving the visitor center a call at 360-569-6036 to let them know you're coming, so they know how many people to expect.

The weather report for Paradise: Dry and mostly cloudy today, with chance of rain and snow increasing on Saturday as a cold front passes through. Freezing level Saturday will be 8,500 feet. Showers again on Sunday as an upper level trough moves through. Here's a link to the live webcam (also here, here, and here), where as of this writing it looks like a beautiful day at Paradise.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Meadow Rovers urgently needed at Paradise

Mount Rainier Meadow Rovers,

I've been out of the office today with a doctor's appointment. I checked my park e-mail this afternoon and learned of an urgent need for Meadow Rovers at Paradise. I'll follow up with an e-mail to everyone on the Meadow Rover mailing list tomorrow when I return to the office, but for now, I want to get this word out as quickly as possible.

The plant beds at Paradise, next to the new Jackson Visitor Center, are being severely trampled by visitors, who apparently do not realize that they are an area that should be off-limits. Reports started coming in of trampling more than a week ago, but there were questions of whether it was appropriate to create the visual impact of fencing, plus we hoped that snow would soon cover and protect the plants. Any fencing we put up would have to be out of the way of snow plows that could push it over.

But the problems has become urgent. This from Chief of Natural and Cultural Resources Rodger Andrascik:

Based on the morning report there is no snow at Paradise currently. Saturday - Based on my observation and amount of post holing that had already occurred - it looked like a herd of elk had already gone through there. I just hate to see all our efforts and money go to waste. Has anyone from NCR gone up to check out the current plant conditions to see if there is any evidence of damage? I understand Curt has taken some signing measures and maybe things did improve but it seems we need to be prepared to deal with snow fluctuations and expect the worst in order to protect the area... We could always set a rope line or cross stakes inside the planting beds a set distance to avoid the plowing efforts or snow removal zone.
So today the decision was made to install rope/fencing immediately, and the request was made to call out the Meadow Rovers to appear in force on the weekends to educate people about the importance of staying out of the area. We've had a few Meadow Rovers out on the weekends already, many of them roaming the areas around the old JVC and talking to people about the demolition. If you've been part of that effort, thank you! Now we need the rest of you, if you're available. It's not a typical time of year for Meadow Roving, but the need is great!

The latest from Greenhouse Manager Libby Roberts:

Damage has been occurring since the beds were planted. Josh [Drown] went up yesterday, Dec. 3, to document additional damage and to get linear measurements of the areas that we will need to fence. He picked up fence posts and rope from Ohana so that we can start installing the rope and post fencing. Josh also talked with the Roads crew to discuss placement of the fence so as to have the least impact on the snow removal operations. Once snow removal operations begin in earnest, there will need to be daily monitoring of the fence to ensure that the fence posts haven not fallen into the road/walkways, hampering snow removal operations or causing damage to equipment, etc. The posts will need to be reset periodically to ensure visibility until the snow is deep enough to protect the vegetation. Josh may start the installation today, and then finish up with the help of Curt and Lou on Friday starting at 1:00pm.
So here's what we need:
  • If you're available, feel free to come up and help set fencing tomorrow (Friday) at 1:00.
  • If your schedule permits, come up and rove the areas around the visitor center, and the nearby trails, on the weekends until we get enough snow to protect the plantings (and the rest of the meadows).

For those of you who aren't yet Meadow Rovers, check out our Meadow Rover page, and send me a note to get on our mailing list for next spring's Meadow Rover training. Mount Rainier's subalpine meadows are second to none, and their protection is one of our key missions! Thanks, everyone!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Volunteer needed to organize Climate Friendly Parks Workshop!

A volunteer is needed, beginning immediately, to help organize a Climate Friendly Parks Workshop at Mount Rainier National Park on February 18 and 19th, 2009.

The focus of the workshop is to:

  1. learn about the impacts of climate change to the Cascade Mountain Range;
  2. discuss a range of climate friendly actions/possibilities (in areas such as alternative energy, energy conservation, solid waste reduction, environmental purchasing, transportation, and education/interpretation); and
  3. develop a climate friendly action plan for Mount Rainier National Park.

We intend to invite community stakeholders from all around the park to participate in this workshop with park staff. See for more information.

Time: December 10th to Febuary 19th, a few hours here and there. No set schedule. Work possible from home as long as internet is available.

Duties include:

  • Assisting with workshop set-up (1-2 days mid-February).
  • Participating in logistics conference call (January 8th).
  • Assisting with invitation lists and formatting a “save the date” flyer (2-3 days ASAP). Confirming invitees.
  • Confirming speakers for workshop and answering logistical questions.
  • Other duties that come up for workshop.
  • Assisting with final revisions to an emissions inventory conducted in the park.

For more information, and to express interest in this position, please contact Rebecca Lofgren as soon as possible at 360-569-2211 ext. 3371 or (Corrected) You may also submit an application online.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Upcoming volunteer opportunities

As most of you already know, volunteer opportunities during the winter months are few and far between. We do work with a few experienced volunteers in the visitor center at Paradise; a few volunteers help out in our curatorial library and greenhouse; work continues through the winter in our curriculum-based education program; and a dedicated team of volunteers conducts ski patrol through the Washington Ski Touring Club.

That said, some of the long-term volunteer opportunities for next summer are already posted on our Volunteer Opportunities page, and more will be coming soon. I just updated the list. Here's a quick summary of what's currently available:

  • Geoscientists-in-Parks: Every summer, Mount Rainier hires at least one and sometimes as many as three interns through the Geologic Society of America's Geoscientists-in-Parks program. We typically hire one intern to provide interpretive programs on geologic themes at Sunrise, and another at Paradise. Last summer we also hired a GIP intern who helped with our geomorphology research program at Longmire. The advertisement period for these positions was scheduled to open today, and while I don't see anything posted yet, they should appear soon. The application period is brief and competition is stiff, so watch the website and get ready to apply if you're a college student studying geology. (If you aren't, surely you know someone who is, right? Let them know about this great opportunity!)
  • Nordic Patrol: The Washington Ski Touring Club is the best opportunity to volunteer at Mount Rainier during the winter months. Visit their website for more information on how you can participate. Volunteers help us with trail marking and visitor assistance throughout the winter.
  • Student Conservation Association Internships: Announcements will be posted soon for internships starting next summer. Watch the Student Conservation Association's webpage for announcements including interpretive rangers, revegetation assistants, biology interns, and backcountry patrol interns, among many others. In addition, we hope to work again next summer with Conservation Leadership Corps teams of high school students recruited locally. Visit the SCA website for information on how to get involved with these teams.
  • CPR and First Aid Trainier: The park is in short supply of local individuals to help train staff and volunteers in the skills of CPR and first aid, mostly during the late spring when our seasonal staff comes on board.
  • Meadow Rover: We won't be roving meadows again until next June. Still, we're already accepting applications! Learn more about the program here, and plan to join us in Tacoma for the spring Meadow Rover's Brunch on May 9 for an early orientation.
  • Campground Host: Believe it or not, this listing is for Summer 2010. Host positions at Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh are incredibly popular, and competition for them is intense, especially now that earlier restrictions on pet ownership have been relaxed. All of the positions for 2009 have already been filled; however, any applications submitted now will be kept on file for 12 months, and will be reviewed in September when we begin hiring for the 2010 season.
Here's a preview of two more position announcements that will be coming soon (just as soon as I can write a good recruitment notice for them):
  • Volunteer Program Assistant: Depending on budget, we hope to hire a volunteer program assistant for five to seven months during the summer of 2009. This individual will help develop, expand, and implement the volunteer program, with special emphasis on developing new volunteer opportunities, working with park supervisors and program managers to develop strategies for working with volunteers, and working with park partners to support the program through recruitment and fundraising.
  • Longmire Campground Manager: The Longmire Campground is now up and running for use by volunteers! We'll hire a campground manager from May through September to coordinate it, including building platform tents in the spring and taking them down in the fall; scheduling use by volunteers; and maintaining the new bathrooms and showers. This individual will also help with general office work and data entry.
It may be quiet on the trails right now, but there's much to look forward to next summer!

More JVC demolition photos

For those of you who have been following the ongoing demolition of the old Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, here's a new set of photos taken on November 26:

For your convenience, here, too, is the first set of photos, taken on November 17:

And the photos from the dedication of the new visitor center on October 10:

You'll find plenty of other Mount Rainier photos here, including my collections of volunteer photos:


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Flood updates

Reports are slowly coming in about the damage we sustained from the flooding two weeks ago. In the frontcountry, our crews have restored the road at Kautz Creek, and you can now see, from the road, where the river chose its third channel in two years. Fortunately, the river is once again flowing through the culverts designed for it, rather than over the roadway. At Tahoma Creek, our crews are now working on measures to protect the bridge there.

Like last time, some of the greatest damage in this flood was at Carbon River, where the road lies uncomfortably close to the river channel. The Superintendent issued this statement on Friday:

"Vehicle access is open to barricades located at the county road washout on State Route 165. Parking is extremely limited. From this location it is a 1/2 mile walk to the Carbon River Entrance. Inside the park the Carbon River Road/Trail sustained further heavy damage making hiking hazardous through rough terrain and fallen trees. The park does not recommend attempting to access the area."

It will likely fall to our trail crews to eventually carve a passage through the debris, as they did two years ago. Watch our websites--both this one and the main park website--for updates about access to this area.

Damage on the Fairfax Road outside the park

Damage on the Carbon River road

The Wonderland Trail sustained further damage in Stevens Canyon, mostly on steep slopes that sloughed off in the storm. I'm not sure whether these were some of the same areas affected by the flood two years ago, but they will certainly require repair next summer before being passable for hikers. Volunteers will undoubtedly play a role in these repairs, as they did after the 2006 floods.

The Wonderland Trail near Martha Falls

The new suspension bridge at the Grove of the Patriarchs also was damaged again, though not irreparably this time. However, it remains unstable and is closed to hikers for the time being.

The silver lining in all of this, besides the damage being less than it was in 2006, is that everyone knows how to respond this time. Our road crews responded quickly and efficiently to restore the road at Kautz, and when the time comes (after the winter storms have passed and the snow has melted), our trail crews will do the same. Our volunteer program stands ready to help.

For now, you can help in two ways. First, make sure you're on our mailing list! We'll get back in touch with you next spring as our crews head out on the trails to make their repairs. Keep an eye on this website, too, for all the latest updates about storm damage and repair plans. Second, consider contributing to Washington's National Park Fund or the Washington Trails Association. The latter organization will work in tandem with our own staff to lead volunteer trail reconstruction efforts, and Washington's National Park Fund has committed to supporting the volunteer program as a whole, including our recruitment and youth volunteer efforts.

Thanks for your support, and we'll look forward to working with you on the trails again next spring!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is it fall? It must be flood season...

From the blog of our partner, Washington's Parks and Forests Coalition:

The Parks and Forest Coalition members continue to rack up the accolades. This time the Seattle Times editorialized on the hard and necessary work volunteers contributed making public lands accessible these past several years. The Times rightly points out that Washington residents take great pride in and ownership of their public lands. The reminder couldn't come at a better time....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tacoma Mountain Rescue turns 50

From The News Tribune:

Although the group now has trucks, snowmobiles and other modern equipment, the mission hasn’t changed. About 30 volunteers from around Tacoma, who have jobs ranging from florist to contractor, regularly drop everything and rush to the aid of someone lost in the mountains anywhere in the Northwest.
Tacoma Mountain Rescue is a major partner of Mount Rainier National Park, and its volunteer members typically contribute hundreds of hours of time each year on rescues large and small. Congratulations on the anniversary to all of TMR's members, and a hearty thank you from those of us at Mount Rainier National Park!

Student group marks second year of volunteerism at Mount Rainier

From The News Tribune:

During the last two years, 3,254 volunteers from around the country contributed a total of 154,168 hours to Mount Rainier National Park, an association news release said. That effort was valued at more than $3 million, park officials said. Volunteers worked on rebuilding the Wonderland Trail, restoring habitat, campgrounds and historic structures, carrying supplies to backcountry project locations, patrolling trails and assisting park visitors. The association also gave wilderness and project management training sessions to park staff and volunteers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Student Conservation Association's Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative reaches successful conclusion

The Student Conservation Association released the following press release last week, which I've delayed reporting here in light of the recent renewed flooding in the park. We're now repairing the road damage at Kautz Creek, and still waiting on reports from the backcountry, so here's the press release, along with some well-deserved kudos to SCA:

An effort valued over $3 million, 3,254 volunteers contributed 154,168 hours to Mount Rainier National Park

SEATTLE, WA -- November 12 , 2008 – The Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative has completed the second and final season of the award-winning program. SCA worked in collaboration with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Washington Trails Association (WTA) and Washington’s National Park Fund to form the Washington Parks and Forest Coalition. With financial support from REI, Boeing and hundreds of donors, SCA fielded an innovative new program at Mount Rainier to help with the recovery efforts following the devastating floods of 2006.

SCA played a pivotal role in the success and momentum of the Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative. Over the course of two years, 3,254 volunteers from around the country contributed a total of 154,168 hours to Mount Rainier National Park – an effort valued over $3 million, according to Park officials. Volunteers worked on rebuilding the Wonderland Trail, restoring habitats, campgrounds and historic structures, carrying supplies to backcountry project locations, patrolling trails and assisting park visitors. SCA also offered wilderness and project management training sessions to park staff and volunteers.

"I consider Mount Rainier like a second home. I decided that it was time for me to give back some of myself to the park which has given me so much joy, peace, and serenity over the years," said SCA volunteer Jean Millan.

The Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative received many accolades, among them the Cooperative Conservation Award, the George B. Hartzog Jr. Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service and the Take Pride in America award, a national award from the Department of the Interior for federal land managers, which was received by Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga.

"Congratulations to SCA for its long legacy of public land conservation," said Congressman Norm Dicks. "We commend them for their outstanding support in the recovery of Mount Rainier National Park."

For more information about the volunteer program at Mount Rainier National Park, visit or

# # #
About SCA
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is a nationwide conservation force of college and high school volunteers who protect and restore America’s parks, forests, and other public lands. For more than 50 years, SCA’s active, hands-on approach to conservation has helped to develop a new generation of conservation leaders, inspire lifelong stewardship, and save our planet. For more information, visit

From The News Tribune:

Volunteer brigade makes a difference at Mount Rainier
Nearly 1,840 volunteers gave 70,130 hours of their time at Mount Rainier National Park this last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. That translates into $1.37 million worth of work, representing more than 10 percent of the park’s annual operating budget.... it is surprising, and pleasantly so, that the number of people who volunteered at the park went up 6.5 percent.... It’s great so many people turned out to help with flood recovery and other projects. There wasn’t nearly as much press coverage of the park’s need to drum up support, yet people still showed up.

From the Seattle Times:

Green Ethics: Values, hard work
Harnessing enthusiasm and channeling talent is an extraordinary skill of the Student Conservation Association, which was honored this past spring by the Department of the Interior for its epic storm-recovery work at Mount Rainier National Park.... A drum roll would be appropriate because the park enjoyed the hands-on labor of 3,254 volunteers contributing 154,168 hours of heavy lifting and hard work repairing storm damage. Park management values the donated labor at more than $3 million.

Monday, November 17, 2008

JVC Demolition photos

Here's a few pictures from the JVC demolition this morning. Very interesting. It's slow going, and will probably take much of the week to complete, based on this morning's progress.

What the photos don't convey is the sound that goes with the images. Imagine a quiet scene--the road is closed because of flood damage at Kautz Creek, so there's only the sound of the engine on the crane as it hoists that massive wrecking ball--and then, THUNK, it drops on the building and a concussive thud shakes the air. Debris goes flying and clattering down the copper roof. Then there's a grinding sound as the ball lifts again, disentangling itself from the building; then quiet again except for the strain of the engine as the ball lifts and the process repeats.

See the link in the previous post for a live web camera image of the demolition in progress, though this is limited by the fact that it's looking into the evening sun and by the fact that the initial demolition is taking place on the opposite side of the building. Still, check it in the morning and you should start to see the building coming down.

For more photos at full resolution, here's the folder on my personal website:

You'll also find lots of other photos from past events at Mount Rainier, including volunteer projects, on the same site.

Climate, Flooding, and Mount Rainier

Here's a great article on WTA's Signposts Blog about the recent and future flooding at Mount Rainier and its relation to the ongoing process of global climate change. Interesting reading, as it touches not only on flooding but on other processes like changing ecosystems.

While the damage is likely nowhere near what hit the park in in 2006, it does remind us that flooding events continue to frequently wash down the valleys of the Cascades.... Meanwhile, the News Tribune reports that alpine meadows in Mount Rainier National Park are disappearing. Scientists have found that, since 1930, new forests have been encroaching on the spectacular wildflower meadows (which make up about 23 percent of the park's land area). The culprits? Climate change, decreasing snow pack, and lack of wildfires all play a role.

Old JVC demolition begins

What an eventful week: first the flood on Wednesday, now today the demolition of the old Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise begins. I've been away for the past week at the National Interpreters Workshop in Portland, but will be leading a convoy of news media up to Paradise at 10:00 this morning, and hopefully checking out the repair work at Kautz Creek later today. I'll try to post some pictures this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the above is the live webcamera shot of Paradise. Here's the direct link for current images:
Update: Also check out this great short article on the National Parks Conservation Association's blog about the history of the building.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flood response: the role of volunteers

I've had several inquiries about what role volunteers can play in response to the recent flooding. Several have also mentioned that this is job security for the volunteer program! Frankly, I'd rather do without it. Still, as I've said before, there's no doubt volunteers will be involved.

However, right now, the main thing that needs to be fixed is the main park road crossing Kautz Creek. That's major construction work and not something volunteers can really help with. The things volunteers can help with--trail work, etc.--won't really happen till next spring when the snow melts out.

So in the meantime, here are four things you can do to help:

  1. Watch this site for the latest information on plans for flood recovery and the role of volunteers.
  2. Find ways to help out through the winter preparing for the summer's work. I'll try to post something on the blog in the next week or so about what the options are, but they'll include things like helping in the greenhouse. There are also some mid-winter projects unrelated to flood recovery, of course, like ski patrol through the Washington Ski Touring Club. Unfortunately the options during the winter, when everything is buried by snow, are limited.
  3. Participate in campaigns to support Mount Rainier and other public lands through local non-profit organizations like the National Parks Conservation Association, Student Conservation Association, Washington's National Park Fund, Washington Trails Association, Mount Rainier National Park Associates, and others. A good starting point is the Washington Parks and Forest Coalition.
  4. Most important, put us on your calendar for next summer! These storms unfortunately hit us at a time when rapid response is not possible (rebuilding trails, etc.) because of winter weather and snowpack. By the time next summer comes around, people sometimes forgot how dire the need is. But in fact the need has not gone away at all, and is as dire once the snow finally melts as it is right now. That's when we need people to remember our needs and step forward to help.

Keep watching this space for more ideas, and of course, contact me at any time to be added to our mailing list for future updates. Thank you to all of you who want to help!

Mount Rainier National Park Remains Closed Through Next Week Due to Flood Damage

November 14, 2008
For Immediate Release
Lee Taylor/Mimi Gorman 360-569-2211, x2307

Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga advises that the Nisqually Entrance Road (SR706 entrance) will remain closed to the public through Friday, November 21. Flood waters compromised the safety of the road in the Kautz Creek area and crews have begun to repair damages to halt further destruction by the creek.

The Kautz Creek channel has once again diverted and is now flowing through the woods approximately 100-150’ east of the channel created during the 2006 flood event. A portion of the water is flowing back into the culverts installed during the 2006 repair work and the remainder of the water is following the roadside ditch to the low point. Sandbags have been placed to divert the water from flowing over the roadway; however the creek is flowing directly against and undermining the road edge. Park crews will work this weekend to attempt to get the water back into the 2006 channel and shore up the damaged areas.

The Pierce County road into the Carbon River Entrance is closed outside the park at MP6. Approximately 200’ feet of the road was completely washed away to a depth of 10’. Trail conditions and river crossings in this area are extremely hazardous. Many foot bridges and crossings do not exist. Hiking in the Carbon River area is not recommended.

On the east side of the park State Route 410 is open with delays. State Route 123 is closed at the Stevens Canyon Road junction. Flood debris once again damaged the bridge to the Grove of the Patriarchs so it is closed while other trails in the area remain open.

For updated information, contact the park at 360-569-2211, ext. 2334. Updates will also be posted to the park’s web page

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More photos

Kautz Creek crossing the park road

Tahoma Creek just 1.5 feet under the park road

Debris along Highway 123

Washout along Highway 123

Flooding at the Grove of the Patriarchs

Fish Creek crossing the Westside Road

Dry Creek crossing the Westside Road

A good place to find further flood information

I'm checking around in the usual places, and as usual, when there's news at Mount Rainier National Park, the Adventure Guys (Jeff Mayor and Craig Hill) at The News Tribune are all over it. This is my second blog entry about the flood, but Jeff and Craig have posted several already... with pictures. (This one's of the flooding across the road at Kautz Creek.) Check them out at the Adventure Guys Blog. Some specific recent posts for those who don't read this right away:

Mount Rainier's Nisqually Entrance Closed
Mount Rainier Closed Today Due to Flooding
Mount Rainier Access Update
Crews Assessing Mount Rainier Roads
The Latest from Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier Remains Closed

Meanwhile, KOMO news reports that the automated rain guage at Paradise recorded 8.70 inches of rain yesterday!

Flood Update

What a time to be out of the park on business! I'm in Portland for the National Interpreters Workshop, and am having a very productive time networking with other interpreters from all over the country and attending workshops. I'm especially pleased that there seems to be at least one volunteerism-themed workshop in each time period, so I'm gathering good ideas to bring back to the park.

Yesterday, it rained and rained here. I turned on the radio yesterday evening and was startled to hear National Public Radio report that the main entrance at Mount Rainier was closed due to flooding. I immediately checked in with the park and found that, indeed, due to flooding at Kautz Creek, the park road was closed and employees were granted administrative leave. Further word would come today when the road was further evaluated.

As of 6pm this evening, here's the official summary from Information Officer (and Chief of Interpretation and Education) Lee Taylor, who ironically decided to stay home from the Portland Workshop in order to get some work done in the office:

This is Lee Taylor, information officer for Mount Rainier National Park at 6 pm on Thursday November 13th with an update on information regarding the flood incident in the park on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Here is a summary of storm damage caused by the rainstorm on Wednesday. The primary area of concern in the park is at Kautz Creek, where water covered the road to a depth of 8 inches yesterday and this morning. The river diverted 600 feet above the road, leaving the channel created after the 2006 flood. The new channel parallels the old channel and about 50 percent of the water is going into the 12 foot culverts underneath the road and the other 50 percent is following the road edge to the low point in the road. The road crews today installed sand bags along the road edge and successfully removed water from the road surface. However, Kautz Creek is still pounding against the road edge and threatening to cause further damage. Tomorrow park crews will work to divert the creek back into its previous channel. The Nisqually road will remain closed tomorrow but we are still hoping to have it reopened in time for the weekend.

There was other damage in the park, not as significant as what’s happening at Kautz Creek, but here’s a summary of that. The power line and the telephone line at the Kautz Helibase are out. At Sunshine Point the Nisqually River gouged a small section of riprap from the dike about five feet from the road edge. The Westside Road suffered one 300 foot section of erosion, which is going to be easy to repair. The Tahoma creek bridge has only about a foot and a half of freeboard; there’s been lots of sedimentation there and there’s not much clearance for the bridge. The paradise waterhead at Edith Creek is filled with sediment and a crew will dig that out tomorrow. Paradise is also without telephone service.

On the east side of the park there was a minor rockslide at Highway 123 at milepost 9. There is also a five foot cavity under the northbound lane at milepost 10.5. At milepost 10.6 there is a two hundred foot ridge of rocks in the northbound lane, so highway 123 remains closed. In the Ohanapecosh Campground there was water over the road in both the F Loop and G Loop with some erosion on the downhill side. The east side of the Grove of the Patriarchs suspension bridge was pulled off its sills and that bridge is now closed to hikers. At Carbon River the road washed out at milepost 6 outside the park near the old mountaineers campsite. Approximately 200 feet of both lanes is completely gone. Some land was lost behind the ranger station and the northwest corner of the maintenance yard was washed away. The old residence building washed downstream approximately 200 feet.

Weather permitting, a helicopter flight tomorrow will provide us with more information on backcountry trail and bridge conditions.

In an internal e-mail, Lee notes that "although the park sustained some damage it doesn't compare in magnitude to the devastation of two years ago. We can all be glad for that!" She also adds that Highway 410 was closed by a 100 foot landslide east of Enumclaw and may not open until after the weekend.

There are a thousand questions, for which I have maybe one or two answers. Are we looking at losing all of the work we did to repair the last flood? Probably not. Will there be additional damage that will need to be repaired? Probably. Will it require as big a volunteer effort as we've had the past two years? That question is completely up in the air until we have a better assessment of the damage. I can tell you for sure, however, that volunteers will be involved at a substatial level, whatever needs to be done, so stay tuned, and I'll keep you as up to date as I can from this distance, and more so when I get back to my office next week.

Undoubtedly any flood repairs involving volunteers will not begin until next spring. Winter snow will bury the park any day now, and our teams will be working hard to document as much of the damage as possible before it does so we can be prepared when the snow melts again next spring. That's when the work will begin. Begin again, really, though of course there is always storm damage to repair after each winter, and there is always a need for volunteers to help with it. The only question is magnitude. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thank you notes

I've been meaning to share with you some very nice thank you notes I've received recently. So much of what we do is a team effort, that it's worth sharing these with the other members of "our team." First:

For your personal attention:

On Friday, September 26, 2008 my husband (83 years young) and I (78) were driving toward Mt. Rainier National Park when into view arose the majestic sight of the mountain peak, newly lined with snow against gray/blue stone in relief. What an amazing sight in a sun filled day!

We were heading for Cougar campground to pitch our tent and work on clean-up on a National Public Lands Day the following day where we met other volunteers at 9 a.m. in Longmire. To our pleasant surprise, not only did we hear our choice of assigned work areas but we heard and met the superintendent, David uberuaga AND --- I kid you not --- President and Mrs. Teddy Roosevelt, the latter delightful impersonators and very knowledgeable. After choosing from a vast variety of gifts including posters, power bars, filled water bottles, pins, stickers, Tee shirts and more, we joined the group heading for the new visitors' center at Paradise to help plant native hot house sprouts. There were 400,000 in many trays of 49 small containers, for 30 volunteers with at least 10 staff members to work in approximately one acre area.

At first, I was overwhelmed, especially since we were on our knees in wet ground that was full of broken stone, rocks and ledges of stone. After two hours, I felt like I was more a part of a prison chain gang and very ready for a lunch break and time to walk about. That was an "AAAH" experience.

It was a clear day and the peak seemed so close. When we first arrived we noticed steam coming from the snow, rising to the sky as a fragile bit of smoke or fog but turning into a cloud where higher atmosphere molded it. At break time, the base was looking like a birthing nursery for many clouds until they all gathered and drew a curtain between us and the peak. As I walked around that planting area, I could see the difference our efforts were making.

All those seriously working volunteers had drawn the attention of all the visitors, walking past from the old center below. At least one couple who were staying at the Inn was so impressed with our efforts, they joined us and stayed on after we left. We met back at Longmire for coffee, pizza and cake, celebrating jobs well done. there were 12 work sights [sic] on that Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008. My husband and I were proud to be a part of a work day and we look forward to doing that again, meeting staff, other campers and volunteers and viewing God's magnificent glory up close and personal. However, since we were so cold at night and early morn, with the wet dew more like rain, we want to choose warmer weather next time.

Michaela, member of NPCA, Ephrata, WA

My husband approves of this report which is being sent to:
NPCA whose news letter brought the NP Lands Day to our attention
David Uberuaga who was so welcoming
Patty Murray
Maria Cantwell
Shane Farnor who received our call of inquiry and gave our names to Kevin Barker [sic] who called near the date to make sure we would attend

Thank you, Michaela, and I'm pleased that you had such a good experience!

Here's a note I received by e-mail:

Hi Kevin,
I have been a VIP for the last 4 years and have volunteered primarily at Death Valley because my wife Kymm is a Fee Ranger (subject to furlough) there. We have worked/volunteered at Crater Lake during our off-season as well. Kymm and I both volunteered at Ohanapecosh/Sunrise for about 6 weeks (Sept and part of Oct) for Julia Pinnix and Sierra at Sunrise. We just wanted to pass on to you and your Superintendent, that we enjoyed helping out during your shoulder season and that we were treated very well by the staff. This was Kymm's first time volunteering. Both Julia and Sierra treated us with respect and professionalism, which I truly appreciate. That is not always the case in the VIP world and varies from Park to Park. I also appreciated the volunteer e-mail you sent out. That was a first for me and was well received. All in all a great experience. Should you find yourself in the North District of Death Valley near Scotty's Castle come see us!
VIP Master Ranger Corps
GS-5 Fee Ranger (DEVA)

And finally, here's a recent addendum to the weekly report from volunteer George Coulbourn at Carbon River:

Personal note: Today, my cumulate hours of service passed the 5000 hour milestone. Although I’ll never approach the service of Dixie or Eva or Flash or many others, it’s still a worthy mark. I owe a debt to Dixie and Ed for getting me started 12 years ago, and to all of you for your encouragement and support, and for your patience when I fell a little short. I tell people that my job is to help them stay out of trouble, and if that doesn’t work, to help them get out of trouble. I tell people that the pay isn’t much, but just take a look at my office. And I tell people that I began volunteering in the Park with the intent of paying back the Park and the wilderness in general for many decades of enjoyment. And that it hasn’t worked: you get more than you give, and the harder you try the more you get; and you can’t get ahead. I look forward to many more years of service, and like mountaineers everywhere, I’ll just take it one step at a time.

Congratulations on reaching this important milestone, George, and thank you for your service!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

2008 Volunteer Value: $1.37 Million!

Independent Sector, a non-partisan research group, has released new numbers for the value of volunteer service. According to the site:

The value of volunteer time is based on the average hourly earnings of all production and nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls (as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Independent Sector takes this figure and increases it by 12 percent to estimate for fringe benefits.

The most recent figure for the value of volunteer time is $19.51 per hour. With 70,130 hours contributed in the past fiscal year, this puts the value of our volunteers' contribution in 2008 at $1,368,000! Our investment into the program includes a $16,000 budget, my salary and benefits, some supervision time, and payments of about $3,500 apiece for the two dozen or so SCA interns who spent their summers with us. Even figuring extravagently in totaling these expenses, that means a return of $1.37 million on an investment of around $200,000. Not a bad deal in a tight economy!

I also appreciate the following additional comment on Independent Sector's website:
It is very difficult to put a dollar value on volunteer time. Volunteers provide many intangibles that can not be easily quantified. For example, volunteers demonstrate the amount of support an organization has within a community, provide work for short periods of time, and provide support on a wide range of projects.

A million thanks to you, our invaluable volunteers!

SCA Mount Rainier Recovery Corps 2008 Fact Sheet

Here's another document that provides some excellent "behind the scenes" information about the highly successful volunteer year we just completed. I've mentioned some of these statistics before, but this time they're accompanied by a lengthy and informative "key," written by Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative program manager Jill Baum. I think you'll find it interesting reading:

SCA Mount Rainier Recovery Corps 2008 Fact Sheet
10/14/08 final draft (stats through 9/28)

Volunteer projects: 107
Volunteers: 657
Volunteer hours (project start to project end): 3,871
Corps hours (includes corps training and Embedded Member service): 7,104
Public training workshop hours: 2,126
Total MRR hours: 13,101

Start date: 5/19/08
End date: 9/29/08
Corps members: 10 (5 Team, 5 Embedded)
Additional interns in basecamp: 3 (plus many guests)
On-site staff: 3 (PD, Coordinator, Cook) (plus periodic assistant cooks)
Wall tents: 12
Park housing units: 3
Kitchen trailers: 1
Vehicles: 5

Snow shoveling person days: 105
Meadow roving person days: 521
Frontcountry campgrounds opened: 4 (Longmire, Cougar Rock, Ohana, White River)
Campsites cleared/maintained: 266
Backcountry campsites constructed: 1 (Pyramid Creek)
Historic shelters rehabbed: 1 (Indian Bar)
Sherpa projects: 9 @ 6600 lbs.
Hours logged by remote soundscape sensors: 646
Soundscape sites logged: 33
Amphibians counted: 1486
Archaeology sites tested: 1/ 4 days/ 5 miles
Weed eradication person days: 130
Exotic plants eradicated: 17,951
Dump truck loads gravel hauled: 8
Seed species collected: 11
Seedlings + salvaged material planted: ~6,000 + 600 sq. ft.
Feet of trails brushed/raked: 75,500
Feet of trail tread repaired: 790
Check steps constructed: 36
Rock steps constructed: 30
Bridges constructed: 5 @ 80 ft.
Retaining walls constructed: 8 @ 118 ft.
Square feet of flood debris cleared for bridge footing: 150
Park signs installed: 22
Youth directly engaged in service: 160
Organizations directly engaged in service: 17

The story behind the stats…

Volunteer projects: This total is limited to projects coordinated by the Corps but includes the numerous trainings we offered this year (see below). Projects ranged from an hour or two to 5 days in length. Most were one-day projects that generally ran from 9:00 – 4:00.

Volunteers: Our volunteers came as individuals, families or with groups. The number of volunteers on any given day ranged from 1 to 102, with an average of about 4 - 8 serving on a particular project.

Volunteer hours: This number is comparable to 2007 (13,344 hours).

Corps hours: Corps time was spent leading volunteers, completing response team projects and assisting in a myriad of ways while embedded within park departments. This total also includes initial and ongoing corps training hours.

Public training workshop hours: Training opportunities were open to volunteers, partners and NPS staff – all of whom took advantage of them. They included Meadow Roving, Advanced Meadow Roving, Soundscape Monitoring, Wilderness First Aid (x2), Wilderness First Responder and Crosscut Saw Certification. Multi-day trainings included meals and camping in the Longmire Campground. All costs were underwritten by our grant from Boeing – thank you!

Total MRR hours: This number is also comparable to 2007, despite the smaller corps. This is due in part to the fact that the entire group served for the same timeframe whereas last year’s program incorporated multiple start and end dates.

Start date: Who could have predicted that we would have had snow on the ground in Longmire well into June, and throughout much of the park well into August? This made for a challenging start to the program, including the need to base operations out of the Lions Club facility in Ashford for the first week and a half. We also spent most of our National Trails Day projects shoveling snow!

End date: The program came in like a lion and left like a lamb, with unseasonably warm temperatures much of the final week and stunning mountain views most of the time. We even managed to dry out the wall tents in time to store them for the winter.

Corps members: Our corps members came from a wide variety of backgrounds, but all were selected based on their desire and ability to lead others, flexibility, maturity and initiative. They were matched early on to team or embedded positions based on their experience and interests. This created a somewhat disjointed group, but with common underlying expectations and a strong base structure in place. 9 of the 10 successfully completed the program, with one unfortunately choosing to leave a few weeks early.

Additional interns in campground: Due to anticipated housing shortages, initially most park SCA interns were slated to take up residence with the corps in our Longmire basecamp. In the end only 3 actually did – and they were wonderful to have around, despite being on different schedules and supervised by park staff rather than SCA (although they very much viewed the corps staff as additional supervisor – as did a fair number of other SCA interns, for that matter).

On-site staff: Continuing from last year and remaining in the park over the winter, the Program Director was joined by a new Field Coordinator in early May and by a Kitchen Coordinator a week later. An Assistant Cook joined the staff for the first month of shared orientation and training with the Native Plant and Corps Trails teams. The same person returned to assist with our large WFA public training weekend in July. We were extremely thankful to have been able to bring on a last-minute replacement cook for the WFR training week in early September, as well.

Wall tents: We added 3 more tents and platforms this year in anticipation of housing additional interns. While the housing crisis abated, we did use the tents for trainers and guests and are leaving behind a fully-functional basecamp for the park to use in the future.

Park housing units: We again relied heavily on the Community Building for warmth and meeting space, as well as the limited but functional capacity of the downstairs apartment kitchen. We mostly used the upstairs apartment for additional kitchen storage and for visiting instructor housing. The Program Director lived across the river in a small house but continued to eat most meals with the corps and to spend a significant amount of time in the Community Building, especially during trainings.

Kitchen trailer: Due to the initial poor weather and periodic large training groups, the kitchen trailer was primarily used as pack out and storage space rather than as the primary basecamp kitchen. Nonetheless, it is a significant asset and has been restocked with equipment to serve a dozen or so folks when it emerges from winter hibernation.

Vehicles: Given that corps members headed in half a dozen directions on most days, 5 vehicles served us quite well. We often used the 12-passenger van to move bigger groups of people but relied especially on our trucks, whose beds proved to be invaluable for hauling gear and materials.

Snow shoveling person days: (See “Start Date” above) This number was calculated by dividing by 8 (a typical “day”) the total number of hours spent shoveling snow. Volunteers were instrumental in opening the campgrounds and Sunrise, where snow drifts exceeded 10 feet and many pathways were completely buried.

Meadow roving person days: Two of our five embedded members served as Meadow Rover coordinators, one at Paradise and the other at Sunrise. While they had very different experiences, they each served to help focus the Rover program and train many new Rovers. The entire corps helped rove on the Independence Day and Labor Day weekends, although poor weather brought unexpectedly low numbers of visitors each holiday.

Frontcountry campgrounds opened: This year’s “opening” projects consisted of clearing snow and debris at Ohanapecosh, shoveling out Cougar Rock on National Trails Day, and working on flood restoration at White River. Restoration work also continued in the Longmire Campground, where two dozen “new” campsites were opened for volunteer use. We were also thrilled to have brand new showers constructed in a renovated comfort station – thanks, Maintenance!

Campsites cleared/maintained: (See “Frontcountry Campgrounds” above)

Backcountry campsites constructed: We spent one day helping the backcountry rangers relocate Pyramid Camp (for which a NPLD group sherpaed up the new toilet parts last year!).

Historic shelters rehabbed: Once again, the corps thoroughly enjoyed working with the backcountry carpenters – especially in this stunning location in early fall. They installed a drainage system and rebuilt the floor of this historic shelter.

Sherpa projects: Volunteers again proved invaluable as an efficient way to move materials where they were required on projects. This summers’ hauling projects included cement for bridge footings, planks for new bridge decking, shingles for a backcountry cabin and soundscape equipment – including three, 40 pound batteries that were carried out to sites at the beginning of the season and back to Longmire at the end.

Hours logged by remote soundscape sensors: The mission of the remote soundscape sensors (see “Sherpa” above) was to record ambient sound at remote locations. Program glitches and freezing weather affected the ability of the equipment to some extent, but significant baseline data successfully has been added to this new program.

Soundscape sites logged: This project was a great way to increase the “citizen science” component of the volunteer program. Following an information and training session, volunteers were equipped to visit the pre-selected soundscape sites, sit for an hour while recording their sound observations, then continue on hiking or head back out.

Amphibians counted: Our member embedded with Natural and Cultural Resources assisted with a variety of projects including several amphibian surveys. Not surprisingly, the backcountry lakes proved to be much more bountiful than those near roads. These volunteers also got to spend the night in several backcountry cabins.

Archaeology sites tested: A corps member and one of our basecamp interns spent a week assisting with the archaeological survey of the Carbon River road area, for which post-flood plans are being considered. They enjoyed the change of pace and learning an entirely new skill set.

Weed eradication person days: Removing exotic plants continues to be an excellent way to involve volunteers at Rainier, particularly large groups or those with somewhat limited time, since often the thickest areas are near roadsides or heavily impacted zones.

Exotic plants eradicated: The primary targeted species included Oxeye Daisy, Bull Thistle and Foxglove.

Dump truck loads gravel hauled: The ground seemed to be saturated everywhere this year, especially up in the Paradise area, where we also helped to fill several new bridge approaches and a turnpike.

Seed species collected: Berries! Volunteers helped to collect native plant species, including Huckleberry, Salmonberry and (yikes!) Devils Club. These will be dried and propagated in the greenhouse or spread as needed near where they were collected.

Seedlings planted: Park staff and volunteers worked furiously to rehab the Paradise construction sites, including landscaping the new visitor center in time for its opening on October 10th. Plantings included both seedlings grown in the greenhouse and plants salvaged from the area before construction began.

Feet of trails brushed/raked: Much of this work was accomplished by the Forest Service Discovery Teams, comprised of local teens from the Randle area.

Feet of trail tread repaired: Unlike last year’s major emphasis on trail reroutes and therefore tread construction, this year’s projects were a bit more specific and sometimes included follow-up repair to new sections after they had ‘seasoned’ for a year.

Check steps constructed: Many of these were on the Kautz Creek Trail, where we worked hard to repair and preserve the tread.

Rock steps constructed: Nearly all of these were on the Kautz Creek Trail, leading in both directions from the new footbridge that crosses what remains of the old river channel. Working with rock is an art that we tried to pass on to many volunteers this year. The results of their labor can be enjoyed for decades to come (or at least until the next time Kautz Creek changes its course).

Bridges constructed: Bridge projects seemed to be an endless need this summer, from new footlogs to replacement 3-stringer bridges. We worked on a couple that required hefty hikes into the backcountry and more time than anticipated to finish, but the corps perservered.

Retaining Walls constructed: Along with polish-up tread work, it became evident that retaining walls also were needed in several key locations (Stevens Canyon, Kautz Creek, Trail of Shadows). These varied greatly in size and material.

Square feet of flood debris cleared for bridge footing: This is a fancy way of saying we dug a giant hole down to bedrock to allow the park trail crew to anchor a new bridge footing near Paradise River Camp... By some miracle, the corps members and volunteers on this project enjoyed it thoroughly!

Park interpretive signs installed: Many of these signs required several people to lift them… We also did some sleuthing to figure out what went where, but the corps labeled them and left clear instructions and maps for whomever takes this on next.

Youth directly engaged in service: A goal for this summer was to actively engage youth in park stewardship, which we did with resounding success. Many of the youth counted in this total were here for multiple weeks while others came with groups that asked to add a service component to their summer visit.

Organizations directly engaged in service: Once again, we were sometimes inundated with groups. They included corporate groups, youth groups, Scout groups, recreational groups and special groups like the Japanese Volunteers in the Parks program. We felt honored to get to know so many diverse and dedicated volunteers.

Friday, October 31, 2008


I've just posted our Annual Activity and Expense Report for fiscal year 2008, which I finally completed yesterday after a couple of weeks submerged in data. THANK YOU to volunteer Sharon Wilhelm for helping me to sort out and enter about 700 records of volunteer hours into my database, along with hundreds of volunteer agreement forms!

The bottom line: our total number of volunteer hours for this year is 70,130, which is down from last year's 84,038 but still up significantly from the previous year's 43,844. Furthermore, our total number of volunteers is up--from 1,724 last year to 1,837 this year (it was only 924 in FY06). Very exciting! So, what's behind the changes? I've spent a lot of time yesterday and today going over the data. Here's some of the story behind the numbers:

Individual and Group Volunteers
First, a further breakdown of the total: Those 1,837 volunteers include 424 individuals and another 1,413 people who participated as part of organized groups. I try hard not to duplicate numbers. For instance, if John Doe volunteers individually as a Meadow Rover, but also works on a project sponsored by the Mount Rainier National Park Associates, I enter his hours individually and do not count him as a "new" volunteer through MRNPA. Obviously it's just not possible to cross-check every single name in every single case, so there are probably some people among the 1,413 who were double-counted. But every year I make an effort to avoid this, so the numbers should be close, and you should be able to make accurate comparisons from year to year. I also keep a list of the names of group members for which I have contact information, which further helps me to weed out duplicates.

The 424 individuals is about double what I had on my roles before the flood. This list contains everyone who actively participated as a volunteer in either FY07 or FY08. 281 were active in 2008, which is about 50% more active volunteers, with confirmed volunteer hours this year, than I had in my entire database in 2006. The other 143 names are people who were active "in the field" in 2007 but not in 2008 (but whom we hope will return in 2009!). Anyone who was inactive in both 2007 and 2008 has been removed from the roles and is not counted. [Added 3pm:] (Worth noting: Last year we had 1,412 group volunteers--almost exactly the same as this year--but only 312 individuals. That means that well over a hundred of this year's individual volunteers are brand new, and volunteering as individuals for the first time.)

I track groups in my database the same way: once they're inactive for two years running, they're removed from the list. I have 59 groups who participated either this year or last. However, I only count group members who were active this year in this year's total of 1,413 volunteers. Many of these groups have been featured on this blog over the past several months; they include employee associations, environmental groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, schools, and other organizations. Champion among them this year was the Washington Trails Association, which was responsible for bringing 336 volunteers to Mount Rainier this year for a total of 3,648 hours of service on the ground (not counting travel and administrative time); and, of course, the Student Conservation Association's Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative, which accounted for 3,871 public volunteer hours and 657 volunteers on 107 different projects--plus another 2,126 hours of volunteer training sponsored by a grant from Boeing.

So, that explains this year's numbers and where they came from. Buy why were our volunteer hours down from last year? Put more positively, why were they still up so dramatically over 2006, despite the lack of urgency caused by the flood? Why were our number of volunteers up even though our total hours were down? Read on:

Where our numbers were down

  • The largest drop in volunteer numbers was in the area of trail repair. Last year we recorded a whopping 36,058 hours of trail repair by 998 volunteers, all in response to the immense need caused by the floods of November 2006. This year we had fewer flood projects with less urgency, and did not work with as many outside volunteer groups like the Tacoma Urban League to get the work done. We had fewer Conservation Leadership Corps groups as well. Even WTA's total hours in the park were down from 2007, though they worked with more individuals. All told, this year's reported trail hours were 16,816, involving 658 people.
  • Flood recovery hours were down in other areas as well. The Mount Rainier Recovery Corps was smaller this year and logged fewer hours in the field, though they more than made up for it with training hours (see below). Campground maintenance hours dropped from 1,547 to 538--there was just less work this year that needed to be done.
  • Hours were down in the areas of frontcountry and wilderness patrol, mostly because we hired fewer Student Conservation Association volunteers this year. Total hours were down from 8,545 to 5,636.
  • The hours reported by our greenhouse and exotic plant control programs were also down due to hiring fewer SCA interns. This not only eliminated the hours reported by the interns themselves, but also limited these programs' capacities for working with public volunteers. Greenhouse hours dropped from 1,446 to 346, and without an Exotic Plant Control team, those numbers dropped from 2,460 to 210. The numbers, however, were offset by large increases in the areas of revegetation and seed collection (see below).
  • Campground Host hours dropped from 2,136 to 1,242. This was in large part due to the lack of full-time hosts at Ohanapecosh this year, caused by problems with hazard trees around the campground host site. We're pleased that this problem has now been corrected, and we are currently recruiting for campground hosts at both Cougar Rock and Ohanapecosh next summer.
  • Our climbing program has relied on volunteers for years. Due to lack of funding, the program was much smaller this year, and their volunteer numbers reflected it. Climbing volunteer hours were down from 3,076 to 840.

Each of these programs is an area for growth in the coming year. There's no getting around the importance of having someone dedicated to recruiting and working with public volunteers in park programs. We'll be working hard on finding ways to make volunteer recruitment and supervision a priority in every part of the park's operation, and may be recruiting volunteers or interns to help with this process. Stay tuned.

Where our numbers were up

Despite losses in some programs, others made up for it, especially in numbers of volunteers:

  • Nordic Patrol was back! The Washington Ski Touring Club was effectively banished throughout the winter of 2006-07 because park roads were closed by flood damage. They only logged 160 hours that winter. Last year they were back in force with 1,124 hours, and they're already polishing their skis for this winter.
  • The park's curatorial program increased its volunteer hours from 1,157 to 4,773, with a large increase in their number of active volunteers. Curator Brooke Childrey has secured funding to continue her highly successful work with volunteers in 2009. Watch for volunteer position advertisements!
  • The interpretation programs at Ohanapecosh, Paradise, and Sunrise all increased their numbers: from 612 to 1,389 at Ohanapecosh; from 1,797 to 2,551 at Paradise; and from 573 to 838 at Sunrise--all without increasing their number of full-time interns hired through the Student Conservation Association. Rangers at Paradise worked with volunteers and a professor on sabbatical from Ball State University to staff the information desk, provide interpretation on park shuttle buses, and conduct research. At Ohanapecosh, east district interpreter Julia Pinnix had volunteers doing everything from trail and campground patrol to sorting photographic slides. A "Jr. Ranger Ambassador" further increased our numbers while drafting a new Junior Ranger handbook.
  • Meadow Rover numbers were also up dramatically yet again: from 3,329 to 4,666--notably, with about the same number of active participants. Many of these individuals were new to the program last year and have continued serving this year.
  • Natural Resources Field Projects were some of our greatest successes this year, with an increase in participation from 1 person to 37 and a corresponding increase in volunteer hours from 110 to 3,144. Public volunteers and inters from Evergreen State College helped with soundscape monitoring, amphibian surveys, and other projects, and program manager Barbara Samora is already working on ideas to continue and expand these programs next year, with the help of partnerships and funding grants.
  • The revegetation and seed collection programs both reported increased participation, with individuals at the helm--Sara Koenig and Will Arnesen--who were dedicated to working with volunteers. Reveg worked with 68 volunteers in 2007 who contributed 934 hours. This year, 280 volunteers contributed 3,200 hours. This includes an increase in the number of volunteer groups we worked with from 4 to 10. Seed collection participation was up from 259 hours by 25 people in 2007, to 514 hours by 72 people in 2008, including four groups.
  • Geomorphologist Paul Kennard made excellent use of volunteer partnerships to increase volunteer participation in stream survey efforts from 100 hours by 2 people in 2007 to 1,840 hours by 9 people in 2008. These numbers included help from three interns: two from SCA and one from the Geological Society of America.
  • The archeology program, under Greg Burtchard, increased its volunteer hours from 243 to 1,407, in large part by working very effectively with a class from PLU.
  • Finally, let's not forget training! Through a grant from Boeing, SCA offered several valuable training courses this summer, including Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness First Responder, and Crosscut Saw certification. These courses were wildly popular and were attended by 71 people, who gained skills that will help them personally and will also make them more effective volunteers. Based on this year's experience, we'll try to continue offering high quality training in the future as "professional development" opportunities for our volunteers.

Next up: figuring out how to hold on to these gains in volunteer participation, and replicate them throughout our program. Our goal: to work in partnership with volunteers on an ongoing basis in stewardship of our national park!