Monday, September 29, 2008

Planters needed at Paradise!

From Mount Rainier's plant ecologist Lou Whiteaker:

We are in the midst of planting season for revegetation projects in the park. One of the high profile projects is planting of native plants in areas disturbed by the construction of the new Jackson Visitor Center. Both plants salvaged from the site before construction and over 90,000 plants grown from seed in the greenhouse are being planted. Good progress has been made by the restoration crew and volunteer groups which can be seen on the south side of the JVC (check it out if you haven't seen it yet). However, tens of thousands of plants still need to be planted this season and the length of the season depends on the weather. Therefore, if anyone would like to spend a pleasant day, morning or afternoon planting native plants in Paradise, please contact Will Arnesen at 360-569-2211 ext. 3374. Will and the crew are usually on site in Paradise by 7:45 am, so you can also check in with him there. Thanks,


Service Nation's National Day of Service

September 27 was a "national day of service" in many ways, not just on public lands. This year, Mount Rainier's volunteer program and the Student Conservation Association registered their National Public Lands Day events with Service Nation, a national organization promoting community service, which has been actively endorsed by both candidates for President of the United States.

Here's a link to our photo set on Service Nation's photo site. While you're there, check out the photos from other projects all over the United States!

Glacier Basin, MRNP WTA Work Trip

I mentioned in my earlier post that the Washington Trails Association was leading projects on the north side of Mount Rainier while our SCA crew leaders were leading projects on the south side. Here, now, is photographic proof! Thank you to Gary Zink for sharing these notes and photos:

Hi Trail Crew,

Its hard to believe there’s a better and more successful day than today for digging out new trail! For Carl and his NPS trail staff, WTA and myself, we’d like to thank each of you for coming out today and helping to make this project so successful. See photos at the link below.

I think the most impressive point that stood out to me the most was the quality of work and the dedication to building a strong and lasting trail. Thanks also for your attention to safety, detail and innovation. The stumps and rocks you dug out and pulled out, the mounds of dirt that we hacked and shoveled, the logs we peeled, the buckets we carried, rocks we rolled and the fun we had doing it, all sums up to fantastic teamwork and the same pride and work ethic that matches our pioneer trail builders of yesteryear. Thanks for serving your country! A special thanks to Laurie for her valuable leadership assistance and those great hot towels!
Carl, James, Carol, Jim, Laurie and I really hope to work with you on this trail again sometime in the near future. Sign up for it if you can, whenever you see Glacier Basin, MRNP, on the WTA website.

Thanks again, Gary, WTA

Next Up: Cleaning up the Marsh property near Carbon River

Despite the fact that National Public Lands Day is now history, volunteer opportunities remain at Mount Rainier, especially through the month of October. Don't forget about our ongoing need for large numbers of volunteers to help revegetate the landscape around the Paradise Visitor Center. Here's another project coming up in the next few days:

On Friday, October 3, volunteers will help clean up the Marsh Property, a recent acquisition by Pierce County Parks and Recreation and part of the new addition to Mount Rainier National Park along the Carbon River. Pierce County staff members have been busy through the summer tearing down the old cabins and sheds scattered across the site. Now we need help hand picking all the scrap metal and timber lying on the ground to dispose of it in a dumpster on site. Volunteers need to bring their own work gloves and wear heavy work boots.

Here's the location:

Marsh Property
29004 Zavitski Road E.
Carbonado, WA 98323

If you can help, please contact:

Janel Krilich
Business Manager
Pierce County Parks & Recreation Services

Some preliminary statistics for the Mount Rainier Recovery Corps

October will be a month of gathering statistics for the past year of volunteer activity, and as the numbers come in, I will share them with you. Here are some great preliminary numbers for the Student Conservation Association's Mount Rainier Recovery Corps. They do not include the many, many volunteers who participated at the park in other ways--just the ones who volunteered with our SCA crew leaders.

2008 included:

  • 105 person-days of snow removal
  • 521 person-days of meadow roving
  • 8 "sherpa projects" (carrying supplies to work locations in the backcountry), involving transport of 6,400 pounds of gear
  • 33 Soundscape Monitoring sites monitored
  • 130 person-days of weed eradication
  • 5 trail bridges built
  • 15 organizations worked with
  • 118 youth volunteers worked with, many of them for periods of weeks or months
  • 1,486 amphibians surveyed
  • 111 total projects

The Corps worked with close to 670 individual volunteers, which is only about 30 short of last year's number--very gratifying given the lower level of urgency this year and the fact that our Recovery Corps itself was much smaller than last year!

111 (or: A Brief Recap of National Public Lands Day)

National Public Lands Day 2008 was a huge success at Mount Rainier! All told, 111 volunteers (including 9 crew leaders from the Mount Rainier Recovery Corps) joined a dozen Park Service employees to work on eight projects on the south side of the Mount Rainier and on adjacent Forest Service land. Many more volunteers joined Washington Trails Association crew leaders to help with projects on the north side of the park at Glacer Basin.

The weather this year was stunningly beautiful. A band of clouds formed around the middle of the Mountain mid-day, but dissipated by evening. Temperatures were cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon. Fall colors and huckleberries were everywhere.

Volunteers gathered at 9am at Longmire, and were welcomed by Volunteer Program Manager Kevin Bacher, Superintendent Dave Uberuaga, and President Theodore Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor Edith, who gave a rousing speech about the importance of protecting public lands for the benefit of both present and future generations. Under the direction of SCA Project Manager Jill Baum, the group then divided into teams and headed out into the park to work on eight different projects. Volunteers spent the day brushing the Snow Lake and Pinnacle Peak trails; planting shrubs at the Paradise Visitor Center; planting 800 seedlings at Milepost 9, a site devastated by the flood of 2006; rebuilding a section of the Wonderland Trail above Longmire; and completing a trail bridge on the Kautz Creek trail. Boy Scout Troop 519 and a few others worked on restoring the Longmire Campground for use by volunteers next year.

One of the largest groups of volunteers worked on cleaning up Forest Service Road 59, on National Forest Service land west of the park. The most common question I was asked over the course of the day was, "why is the Park Service doing work on Forest Service land?" The answer, of course, is that conservation does not start or stop at park boundaries; the health of the forest around Mount Rainier National Park is critical to the health of its own ecosystems, and visitors as well as wildlife cross back and forth between them. The Park Service and the Forest Service are partners, not competitors, and we work closely with each other to ensure that all of our public lands are well-maintained. The crews on FS59 had their hands full pulling trash out of ditches and preparing it for Forest Service and Pierce County employees to haul away, including refrigerators, abandoned cars, and a collapsed camper trailer.

After the day's work, volunteers gathered at the Longmire Community Building for pizza and cake and a slide show of volunteers in action throughout the year. Look for a copy of the slide show in a separate post. Meanwhile, here's a sample of some of the photos I've received so far from National Public Lands Day 2008. To all who participated, thank you! And it's not too soon to mark your calendars for next year: NPLD 2009 will be September 26, 2009.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A thank you from Brooke Childrey

From Brooke Childrey, Mount Rainier's Museum Curator:

I wanted to send a note out to say thank you to all those who made it possible for me to achieve NCR Employee of the Year. I did not achieve this award alone, several people contributed to the success and professionalism of the curatorial program this year.

All of the work accomplished in curatorial was possible because of volunteers Marcy Partridge, Carol and Jim Miltimore, Rose Evans, Connie Wilkerson, Mary Beth Heskett, Mary Dilligan, Renata Chew, John Chao, Loren Schmidt, and John and Jane Titland; SCA's Shayna Atwood and Paige Bartley; and all of the staff and retired employees (including Rick Kirchner and Bob McIntyre) who participated in the photograph identification sessions. Without them; their flexibility and willingness to do whatever needed to be done; only a fraction of the accomplishments that were achieved would have been completed.

Assistance from park staff came from many programs including David Gunderson who assisted with the natural history specimen conservation treatment program; Jim, Jimmy, and Rich who repeatedly repaired and ultimately replaced parts of the HVAC system at curatorial so that we are now no longer experiencing temperature swings from the low 50s to the 90s in a single day; the carpenters who responded to, among other requests, my request to replace the plate glass in the JVC exhibits with tempered glass enabling us to protect the specimens and visitors and re-use these exhibits at Ohana and Sunrise, and Michael Clegg who spent 4 weeks identifying and labeling flood documentation photographs.

All of this cross-program teamwork and volunteer assistance is what added up to a successful and professional curatorial program at the park and led to the preservation, protection, and accessibility of the park's museum collection.

Thank you all for making this happen. My name may be on the plaque, but you all are, in my opinion, NCR Employees of the Year.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Volunteer Newsletter 3.5

Dear friends,

A cool wind is blowing outside, and the leaves are dropping off the maple trees. There's rain in the forecast... but the sun should return in time for National Public Lands Day on Saturday! I hope you can join us for our last major event of the season. We have a dozen projects on tap, including trail repair and maintenance, historic campground restoration, and lots and lots of native seedling planting. President Teddy Roosevelt himself will join us to kick off the day's events at 9:00 at Longmire, and we'll wrap up the day with pizza, cake, and a slide show of volunteers in action at the Community Building at 4:00.

Did I mention lots and lots of planting? Saturday will be our last big event, but not the last volunteer project by any means! Our new visitor center will be opening on October 10, and volunteers are busy helping us to plant native plants around the new construction. We expect to have no shortage of work for anyone who would like to help out, through the end of October, weather permitting, so if you or your group would still like to get out to the park and help, give me a call!

And watch in the next day or two for a new posting on our blog about restoration work on the brand new "Marsh" property near Carbon River , recently added to the park's legislative boundaries...

Meanwhile, our volunteer blog is FULL of stories and photos about volunteer activities this summer, from boy scouts and middle school students planting shrubs at Paradise to Japanese volunteers building trails and collecting seeds along the Westside Road; from Mount Rainier Recovery Corps volunteers assisting with flood restoration near Longmire to Washington Trails Association volunteers rebuilding the Glacier Basin Trail.

There's a lot going on, and we hope you can join us as this season begins to wind down!

Kevin Bacher
Volunteer Program Manager

Boeing and Boy Scouts

I just realized that this set of pictures somehow never got posted on the blog! It was supposed to have been posted last week, in honor of the hard-working volunteers from Boeing and the Boy Scouts of America who helped us out doing revegetation work at Paradise. Who knows where into the ether of the Internet it disappeared to? Anyway, here it is, and our appreciation for these efforts has not evaporated even if the web code has! Thanks to Eas and Kala Easwaran for the great pictures.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Calling all planters!

I received the following e-mail late last week from Sara Koenig, who's in charge of our revegetation efforts at Paradise:


I made a list today of fall planting sites and it was a big list!! If you have any VIPs or groups looking for projects on Tues, Weds and Thurs from now until Oct. 25, we can probably use them.

The work sites are mostly steep, rocky, road embankments.

Sound like fun? Give me a call at 360-569-2211 ext. 3385!

This is a great project for volunteers of all ages. Check out the photos of our Nisqually Middle School volunteers last week. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are some new photos, taken by Eas and Kala Easwaran, of Boy Scout and Boeing volunteers at work on September 18.

National Public Lands Day to cap another successful volunteer season at Mount Rainier

For Immediate Release

Kevin Bacher, Volunteer Program Manager, Mount Rainier National Park
360-569-2211 ext. 3385

On National Public Lands Day, Saturday, September 27, 2008, a hundred volunteers will assemble at Mount Rainier National Park to rebuild and repair trails and trail bridges, plant native seeds and trees, and restore a historic campground. The work day will cap a highly successful season in which more than a thousand volunteers contributed to the protection of the park’s natural and cultural treasures and helped serve its visitors.

National Public Lands Day is an annual celebration of public involvement in the stewardship of America’s national, state, and local parks and forests. More than 120,000 individuals are expected to participate in events all over the country. In recognition of this, entrance fees have been waived at all national parks. Volunteers will receive an additional coupon for free admission on a day of their choice. September 28 has also been designated a fee-free day at national parks, in honor of newly naturalized American Citizens.

At Mount Rainier, volunteers will gather at the Longmire Museum at 9:00 a.m. Teams under the direction of crew leaders from the Student Conservation Association will finish building a trail bridge near Kautz Creek, plant native seedlings along flood-damaged sections of the park road and around the new visitor center at Paradise, help rebuild a damaged section of the Wonderland Trail, and restore the historic Longmire Campground for use by future volunteers. The Washington Trails Association will lead a massive effort to rebuild the Glacier Basin Trail, which was obliterated by flooding two years ago. Volunteers will also help with projects in neighboring National Forest land, brushing the trail to Glacier Peak Lookout and cleaning up campsites along Skate Creek Road. Projects will be available for all ages and levels of physical ability.

After the work day, volunteers will gather for pizza, cake, and a slide show of volunteers in action in the park’s Community Building.

A coalition of nonprofit organizations and corporations has supported volunteer efforts at Mount Rainier throughout the summer. The Student Conservation Association’s Mount Rainier Recovery Corps, supported by a major grant from Boeing, has trained and led hundreds of new volunteers on projects ranging from general maintenance to flood reconstruction. The National Parks Conservation Association has led efforts to increase public awareness and understanding of issues facing our parks, including climate change and increased dangers from flooding. The Washington Trails Association and its members have worked hard to rebuild and repair storm-damaged trails throughout the state. Washington’s National Park Fund has supported flood recovery and volunteer efforts through fundraising. Corporations including REI, Starbucks, and Outdoor Research have contributed with both financial and on-the-ground volunteer support. Hundreds of individuals and dozens of groups have invested their time and sweat, in partnership with park employees, to build and patrol trails, assist and educate visitors, plant native plants, remove invasive species, maintain backcountry campsites, catalogue historic records, and conduct research.

Last year, 1724 volunteers contributed 84,038 hours of service at Mount Rainier, an effort valued at $1.6 million. The park’s volunteers and managers received three awards this spring: the Department of the Interior’s Cooperative Conservation Award, the National Park Service’s George Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service, and Take Pride in America’s Federal Land Manager’s Award.

Individuals may still register to help with National Public Lands Day, as well as many other projects extending into October. Up to date information, a calendar of activities, and lots of pictures of volunteers in action may be found on Mount Rainier National Park’s website at, or on its volunteer program blog at

- NPS -

Bears everywhere

One thing we have had no shortage of this year is bears. We had a flurry of sightings this spring, as the bears were out looking for food in lower elevations than usual because of the late snowpack. Now, this fall, we're seeing them again: the bears are looking for huckleberries, and there aren't many to be found yet.

WTA's Signposts blog has a good article called "Few Huckleberries = Hungry Bears." Cori Conner, a wildlife biologist in the park, recently sent out an e-mail saying "The bears have arrived at Paradise!! This weekend there were multiple bears seen in the immediate Paradise area. One cinnamon colored bear in particular has been seen just outside the Paradise Inn cafe balcony and on the lower trails. It shows no fear of humans and has been within 10' of some visitors. This is a great time to start contacting visitors in the Paradise area and educating them on bear safety, proper food storage, and garbage disposal. Drive with caution, there have also been several 'bear jams' on the roads."

Volunteers have been sending me lots of pictures, too. Here's a sampling:

(yet another, added 9/24)

Enjoy the wildlife, and be careful out there.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Longmire SCA Intern Greg Carstens wins award from Americorps

From guest blogger Greg Carstens:

Hi Everyone,

Well, the summer is basically done for me but I do look for a few fall hours out there and I can hardly wait until the new Jackson Visitors Center is open. Ironically the center will be opening on October 10th just one day before my birthday. I really have to wonder if some of the folks doing the planning knew about that date because I know I did mention it to Darin Swinney the park's GIS specialist at Longmire at least once. It could be possible I guess that he relayed that information to Dave Uberuaga. Well, maybe. No matter what happens in my future I look forward to continuing to serve the National Park Service out of the new building.

Ok as you all pretty much know by now or have heard over the summer at one time or another, I was a natural resources planning intern at Longmire under the direct supervision of Darin Swinney. This program was originally assigned to me through the Student Conservation Association. Within this program I had a chance to do something really special for the park and a great chance to be rewarded by an outstanding organization called Americorps. At the beginning of the season I was told I had to not only finish my project but also had to total 450 hours of service. I finished with 476 hours and all total for this year in the park I racked up 532 hours and lifetime so far I am at 626 which includes service at Yellowstone National Park. By August 31st. it was all pretty academic and the other day I received a confirmation from the Student Conservation Association that I will receive me award of $1,280.00 which will enable me to pay for a whole quarter of tuition at Pierce College. Nice huh? My Mom's eyes really lit up when I told her that I will receive this award.

For a few years now I wanted to make a impact within the park and perhaps begin a little bit of legacy. I still remember telling Kevin Bacher how I wanted to just obliterate my hours total I had last year in 2007. Yes I did that. I also helped out putting together some data that was much needed for Darin Swinney. I still had time to meadow rove for Kevin Bacher and also I made a great impression on Julia Pinnix as well as helped out a long time friend once again who was one of my high school teachers in the past. Thank you Jim Ross for giving me chance to work at the fair again this year.

In closing I will say this. For several years I had many who were skeptics in what I could or could not do but my true to belief in my heart is if you have the passion to build a goal it is likely you will achieve it especially if that passion is strong. Never let anyone tell you that can not do something if you never had a chance to do it.

Thanks for a great summer everyone and I hope to see you this fall.

Greg Carstens
SCA Natural Resources Planning Intern
VIP Paradise Meadow Rover and at Ohanapecosh Visitors Center

Thursday, September 18, 2008

National Public Lands Day: A preview of projects

I've been bogged down over the past week attending planning meetings and getting the volunteer program budget up to date in preparation for the end of the fiscal year, which for the government in September 30, and haven't done as much blogging as I'd like. (Too bogged to blog?) Rest assured that, nevertheless, things are still happening with the volunteer program! I now have a huge backlog of stories and photos to share with you, and hope to get those caught up, bit by bit, over the next few weeks.

For starters, here's an update on National Public Lands Day, which is coming up next week (already!) on Saturday, September 27. We'll be posting a media advisory tomorrow and sending out a press release early next week. Meanwhile, I can tell you that we have a dozen different projects tentatively "on tap," and they represent an exciting range of volunteer opportunities. This list may (and probably will) change between now and next Saturday! But it will give you an idea of what we're thinking, and maybe inspire you to sign up (and tell your friends)!

Our day will begin, by the way, at 9am at Longmire. Rumor has it that neither George W. Bush, John McCain, nor Barack Obama will be present (though they would certainly be welcomed if they showed up), but President Teddy Roosevelt will be on hand to cheer us on! (Maybe he found our listing on the Service Nation website?) After our work we'll gather informally at the Community Building for pizza, cake, and a slide show of volunteers at work throughout the park this summer. T-shirts may also be involved.

See you there!

Tentative project list (in order of likelihood):

  1. Glacier Peak Lookout brushing and cleanup
  2. Skate Creek Road campground cleanup
  3. Kautz Trail bridge construction
  4. Paradise native planting
  5. Longmire-Cougar Rock Wonderland Trail reroute construction
  6. Mile 9 native plant seeding
  7. Longmire Campground historic restoration
  8. Highway 123 seeding and fencing
  9. Pyramid Creek Camp relocation project
  10. Twin Firs Trail timber structure construction
  11. Lakes and Skyline Trail brushing
  12. Pinnacle Peak Trail brushing

And don't forget the Washington Trails Association's work at Glacier Basin (and at several other sites around the state as well)...

Mount Rainier National Park proposing to reroute section of Wonderland Trail

Of potential interest to park volunteers on the National Parks Conservation Association's blog:

One of the must-do national park backcountry treks in the West is the circumnavigation of Mount Rainier via the Wonderland Trail. Storm damage in recent years has officials at Mount Rainier National Park proposing to reroute part of that trail, and are interested in your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wilderness First Responder training

We received a very nice e-mail yesterday from a volunteer who participated in the Wilderness First Responder course last week:

Hi, Kevin & Jill,

I want to thank both of you (and any others involved) for making the WFR course a reality after so much uncertainty during the months before. I feel that I was truly given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in such a great experience in the beautiful setting of the historical Longmire Community Building and campground. Our instructor, Trenton Harper from Aerie, was very knowledgeable and experienced, and his enthusiasm for the subject was very apparent. The course had a good balance of classroom instruction and practical application in the form of outdoor scenarios. In addition to being a great instructor, Trenton is a great actor/director who made the outdoor scenarios very realistic. The final scenario of triaging multiple patients, then carrying the patient in an improvised litter (for miles, it seemed like!) was exhausting but exhilarating! After taking this course, I feel that I am much better prepared to deal with any emergencies that may come up while I am meadow-roving. I truly hope that MRNP will continue to offer this WFR course in the future, it is invaluable knowledge for us volunteers to have.

Thanks again for creating such a great opportunity for me.
It's great to get good feedback from volunteers! The feedback on our training program this summer, sponsored by the Student Conservation Association and Boeing, has been overwhelmingly positive.

In case you didn't get a chance to see it for yourself, here are a few of the disconcerting images you might find if you stumbled upon one of the training scenarios described above:

Thanks to all of our great instructors, volunteers, and sponsors!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Geomorphology program benefits from volunteers

One of the cool things about working at a place like Mount Rainier National Park is that I get to learn the meaning of terms like "fluvial geomorphologist" (someone who studies the changing landscapes along glacially-fed rivers). The geomorphologist at Mount Rainier is Paul Kennard, who, as you can imagine, has had his hands full with all kinds of fun projects since the flood of November 2006.

He's worked with several volunteers in these efforts, both before and after the flood--mostly graduate students in geology who've helped him conduct research. I directed part of our modest volunteer program budget his way this spring to help pay for gear and supplies. I received this follow-up today, which will give you a sense for what this important program has been accomplishing:
I want to thank the VIP Program for its invaluable support to my summer field effort. The funding supported 3 projects:
1) Identifying the initiation mechanisms of debris flows that have been wreaking havoc on park infrastructure;
2) Identifying the extent and status of Rainier glaciers (for glacier outburst flood potential); and
3) re-surveying cross sections to estimate river aggradation.
All require extensive work in difficult backcountry conditions, and we could not have been successful without VIP equipment funds.
Paul will almost certainly continue working with student volunteers in the future, so if anyone out there reading this thinks this would just be the most awesome summer project ever, please send me a note and I'll put you in contact with Paul.

Nisqually Middle School rocks!

Students from Nisqually Middle School spent yesterday and today helping with a revegetation project around the new visitor center. These plants had been salvaged from near this spot three years ago in preparation for completion of the visitor center, and are finally coming home.

The weather was excellent, and the students were psyched to be working in it! I've rarely seen a more hard-working group of kids.

Can you believe this rock?! Josh must have spent 20 minutes working it out of the ground in preparation for planting! By the time he got it out, the whole crew was standing around cheering him on.

The adults helped too. :-) Besides helping in the field, they also led hikes and spent an evening making smores in the campground.
Great work, everybody, and we hope to see you out here again next year!

Getting American youth more involved in the National Parks is a difficult challenge and a golden opportunity

From the National Parks Traveler blog of the National Parks Conservation Association:

Nurturing broadly-based advocacy for the national parks has never been more
critical, and promoting greater youth interest and visitation is a key
consideration. Some progress is being made, but much more can be done.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Local residents give aid after hurricane

From The Olympian:

About 20 South Sound residents helped with Red Cross relief efforts Saturday on the Gulf Coast — some in cities recovering from Hurricane Gustav, and others in areas recovering from Hurricane Ike. The volunteers are among about 125 from Washington who have been aiding storm-ravaged communities near the Gulf Coast, said Karen Kim, spokeswoman for American Red Cross Mount Rainier Chapter.

President Bush hosts event on volunteering

(Cross-posted from the National Park Service's Intranet site. NPS Photo: President Bush with Tuskegee Airmen NHS volunteer.)

President Bush hosted an event on the South Lawn on Monday, September 8th, regarding his efforts to encourage volunteer service and in honor of America's volunteers. During his remarks, the President renewed his call for Americans to devote 4,000 hours over their lifetime in service to our country. As he said: “I call upon our fellow citizens to devote 4,000 hours over your lifetime in service to your country. You'll become a better person for it, and our society will be more healthy as a result of it. You know, there's an old adage that says, you can bring hope to the lives of others, but the life you enrich the most will probably be your own.”

You can read the full text of the President's remarks by clicking on the link below.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Volunteers needed to help move to new visitor center

Live webcam image of the new Paradise Visitor Center under construction

Moving day is almost here!

On October 10, Mount Rainier National Park's brand new visitor center at Paradise will open to the public. The old visitor center will close on the evening of September 28, but the move will actually begin a week earlier.

VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED TO HELP WITH THE TRANSITION! Help us box up equipment and supplies and move it between the two buildings. Help us clean up, and build new furniture. Meanwhile, get a sneak peak at a magnificent new building!

If you can help, contact volunteer program manager Kevin Bacher (corrected), at 360-569-2211 ext. 3385, who can provide you with additional information and direct you to the project leaders.

Also needed: Meadow Rovers to help staff a temporary information desk in the "Old Station," and to patrol nearby trails to point visitors to where they can find assistance. This will be especially important on the weekend of October 4th if the weather is good!

Join us for seed collection and tree planting on September 20

We will be collecting seeds or planting trees and shrubs at sites damaged by the flood of 2006. This is a great chance to work in a beautiful setting, have fun, and help the park in its flood recovery efforts.

A similar opportunity last month was well-attended, and volunteers reported having a great day working in the park!

Work will begin at 9am and continue until 3pm. You are welcome to work any portion of the day. Meet in Longmire at the Longmire Museum. Wear sturdy shoes and bring lunch, plenty of water, and rain gear.

For more information, please call Kim Popek at 360-569-2211 ext. 3356.

Hope to see you there!

Outdoor Research, out and about at Mount Rainier

Today is Outdoor Research day! The employee group from Seattle is here with more than 30 volunteers, working on five different projects from Kautz Creek to Paradise. Here's a set of pictures of volunteers preparing to head out on the trail at Kautz Creek to build a bridge, under the direction of the Student Conservation Association's Mount Rainier Recovery Corps.

Also along for the day were three of the youngest volunteers on our roles: Estella, age 4; Amelia, age 3; and Kaisa, age 4. We put them to work picking up windstorm debris (also called "sticks") in the Longmire Campground, and they had a great time making piles, and taking breaks to play on the rocks by the river in the sun!

Thank you to ALL our Outdoor Research volunteers!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thank you, Japanese volunteers!

It's hard to believe that our Japan Volunteers in Parks Association volunteers are already leaving to return to Tokyo! They arrive barely three weeks ago, and my, how the time has flown. During their time here, the students built trails, helped with restoration projects, collected seeds for future revegetation efforts, patroled trails, and helped in the Jackson Visitor Center. I'm still gathering pictures of the hard work they did... most of my own pictures are from the times between projects, at the welcome picnic, the park tour, and the annual weekend pilgrimage to Seattle to see the Mariners (who beat the Yankees 5-2 this year!).

Now tomorrow the group will gather one final time with their host families to celebrate three weeks of hard work, good fun, and new friendships. I'll add more photos to our JVIPA 2008 photo album after that event, and hopefully will gather more pictures of actual work in progress from the park supervisors and SCA Recovery Corps members who spent time with them every day in the field. Meanwhile, here's a retrospective on the deeply appreciated members of the 15th Japan Volunteers in Parks Association visit to Mount Rainier.

The Presidential Forum on National Service

Not the leading image you'd expect on a vigorously non-partisan government blog, is it? But here's the deal: one of these men will almost certainly be our next President of the United States (and, as a government employee, my boss). So it was with great interest that I watched them discuss issues of volunteerism and national service this evening in a forum sponsored by TIME. Regardless of politics, as a volunteer program manager I'm gratified to see the two major party candidates united in their support of volunteerism --and their belief that it's one of the things that makes this nation strong.

I'm hoping to excerpt some of the comments most relevant to volunteerism on public lands, as soon as I can find a transcript posted online. Anyone know where to find one?

P.S. Turns out, our close partner SCA is involved with this forum. Check out their Conservation Nation blog entries (so far) here and here.

P.P.S. A transcript has now been posted. Here are some choice quotes:

"So I’m very pleased at the volunteer effort in America. I’m very pleased at what we’ve seen around this country, particularly as we’re in difficult times. I think we can be proud of Americans. And obviously, if we need to take some steps to encourage that or make it easier for them, I’m all for it." - Senator John McCain

"I think that as much as I treasure our military service, there’s lots of ways to serve our country, too. And I want to emphasize that. I know we’re talking a lot about the military. But there’s so many ways to serve this country and there’s so many ways that are noble and wonderful, both at home and abroad. So I want to make that perfectly clear. I think that it’s very clear AmeriCorps has been one of the astonishing successes. Peace Corps, we’ve seen the success for a long time, because Jack Kennedy obviously originated it. But we have seen these volunteer organizations succeed. And if we need to, whether it’s connected to the military or not, provide them with sufficient reward and sufficient recognition. You know, a lot of these young people are more proud of the fact that we recognize the ones walking around with the red jacket that say 'City Year' than they are about the money. You know? I mean, that’s what they’re all about. So I’d be glad to reward them as much as possible. But you want to be careful that the reason is not the reward of financial or other reasons, but the reward is the satisfaction of serving a cause greater than yourself. That would be fine with me. Finding new ways to serve. That’s what this next few years should be all about." - Senator John McCain

"America is the greatest country on earth. But it didn’t just happen on its own. It’s not a gift only, although it is a great blessing that we’ve received. It is also a responsibility. Part of what makes America work is the fact that we believe in individual responsibility and self-reliance, but we also believe in mutual responsibility, in neighborliness, in a sense that we are committed to something larger than ourselves. Now, that can express itself in a whole range of ways, but what has built this country is people sense, through voluntary associations, but also through public service in government, that we have commitments that extend beyond our immediate self-interest, that aren’t always motivated by profit, that aren’t simply short-term, that we’re thinking long-term, to the next generation. Every bit of progress that we’ve made historically is because of that kind of active citizenship." - Senator Barack Obama

"You know, when I think about the choice I made as a 23-, 24-year-old, to spend three years working with churches, to help people help themselves, no insult to the president of this fine institution, but it was the best education I ever had because it taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they’re given a chance and when they’re brought together. And that’s something I want to encourage for every young person. I want every young person around this country to recognize they will not fulfill their full potential until they hitch their wagon to something bigger." - Senator Barack Obama

National parks leader sees significant challenges

In today's News Tribune is an interview by Jeffrey Mayor with National Parks Conservation Association president Tom Kiernan, in which he addresses volunteerism in National Parks and the leadership role we play in that area at Mount Rainier:

“I think there’s huge potential for volunteer programs. But there is a bit of a challenge within the National Park Service and within communities in how volunteers can help.” Given the success of the coalition that led the recovery effort at Mount Rainier National Park, I asked if he thought it could serve as a role model for other volunteer efforts nationwide? “Yes. The effort here in the Northwest, from the coalition of groups, private companies providing money, the park leading the effort, getting Congress involved, it was the right chemistry of various interests coming together. The (National Cooperative Conservation) award the coalition received speaks volumes to the precedent potential,” he said. “The Northwest needs to be applauded. There seems to be an interwoven culture of the communities and the park service. There is a sense among all the players of the economic interdependency.” The challenge, Kiernan said, is doing a better job nationally to explain how citizens can get involved at a park. “I do hope it doesn’t take devastating things to rally the support, like the flooding out here,” he said.

Curatorial volunteers make great strides

I stopped by Mount Rainier's curatorial facility yesterday morning, to drop off Volunteer Passes to Shayna Atwood and Mary Heskett in reward for more than 500 hours apiece of volunteer service this summer. What I thought would be a quick visit turned into an hour-long tour of the amazing things our curatorial volunteers have accomplished in the past few months!

Brooke Childrey walked me through some of the statistics:

  • A room full of specimens was moved to temporary storage, in preparation for reorganization of the collection. Each specimen had to be individually removed and packed; then after the heavy specimen cabinets had been moved to the garage of the housing unit next door, the speciments themselves were unwrapped and replaced in their storage drawers. The process will need to be repeated this fall, so if anyone is interested in helping, they should contact Brooke!
  • Volunteers catalogued 54,000 documents, including 19,000 photographs, and processed an additional 17,000 in preparation for cataloguing! These documents will soon be available for park staff and researchers to access via a searchable database.
  • 34,600 environmental compliance records were sorted, processed, and carefully stored.
  • 30,000 flood documents were organized and 14,000 electronic files printed and stored.

It's an amazing accomplishment, and the volunteers are understandably proud of their work! Contributors include Shanya Atwood, pictured to the right with the racks of compliance records she organized; Mary Beth Heskett; Connie Wilkerson; Renata Chew; Paige Bartley; Rose Evans; Marcy Partridge; and Jim and Carol Miltimore. Much more work remains to be done, sorting and organizing the park's historical records and museum collections, so if this work interests you, contact Brooke Childrey at park extension 2364 and she'll put you to work!
Update (9/23/08): Brooke Childrey has been named the Employee of the Year by the park's division of Natural and Cultural Resources. Congratulations, Brooke!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sunrise at Mount Rainier

Agnes Thomsen sent me these great photos of her family volunteering at Sunrise.

Hard to beat that location!

Join us on Facebook!

Mount Rainier's volunteers now have a page on Facebook! If you're a Facebook member, point your browser to, or search for "Mount Rainier National Park Volunteers," and become a fan. Our Facebook page will automatically update with entries from this blog; even better, you'll be able to meet and make friends with other volunteers, and share your own stories and photos about your experiences on the trail. See you on Facebook!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

WTA Seeks Trail Programs Director

The Washington Trails Association (WTA) is looking for an energetic leader with lots of trail cred to run a statewide volunteer trail maintenance program that fields more than 700 work parties annually throughout the Cascades, Olympics, and eastern mountains. More than 2,000 volunteers contribute 80,000 hours in kind labor, doing everything from routine maintenance to bridge replacement and new trail construction. Qualified candidates will understand the many facets of running a trail program, from digging mudpits with volunteers to crunching numbers for government contracts.

A full job description can be found through the following link:

Monday, September 8, 2008

Backcountry patrol at Indian Henry's Hunting Ground

Thanks to Judy Kennedy and Carol Campbell for sharing their photos!

Cook Needed!

The Mount Rainier Recovery Corps is in urgent need of a camp cook! We're looking for someone to manage a kitchen, purchase supplies, and cook for our 10-person Corps, as well as for visiting groups of various sizes, using a mobile field kitchen. Previous experience is required. This is a paid position working for the Student Conservation Association, to begin immediately and continue through the month of September. For details, please contact Jill Baum as soon as possible at 360-569-2211 ext. 3414.

Update: A cook has been found! Thanks for your consideration!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Experts Ponder The Way In

The Washington Trails Association has posted a good summary, on their Signposts Blog, of last night's forum at the University of Washington on climate change and its implications for access to our northwest national parks. If you missed the forum, check out the summary--and watch for a taped version of the forum on local public access television. (I've also encouraged the event's sponsors to make it available as a streaming video online, and if that occurs, I'll link to it here on this website.)

What followed... was a wide-ranging discussion of the future of national park roads, which is essentially the future of national parks themselves. More than one audience member raised the question of whether or not the private passenger vehicle ought to be allowed in national parks at all. Long-time members of WTA might remember that Mount Rainier National Park explored whether or not to require overnight park users to shuttle into the park via busses. WTA argued against that notion, pointing out that returning from a backpacking trip cold, wet, tired and hungry and having to wait for a bus would be at the very least uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. We would make the same argument today.... We welcome your questions and comments on how best to make these decisions. We also encourage you to provide
feedback via the first entry on Washington's Park and Forests Coalition's website.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tales from the Trails

Every so often, I enjoy sharing an excerpt from one of the "field reports" I receive from volunteers in the field. Here's one I received yesterday. (And a reminder: I'm always interested in hearing about your experiences and seeing your pictures!)

Morning Kevin,

Hope all is well with you and you had a great weekend. Actually made it up the mountain Monday and the following is my report.

Date: 9/1/2008
Hours: 8
Contacts: 71
Trails/Areas "Roved": Alta Vista, Waterfall, DeadHorse, Skyline, Pebble Creek, Pan Point, JVC Parking area

Day could best be described as a "Northwest Sampler" subjecting one to the various conditions that only the Northwest can provide. Over the course of the day, sunny, clear leaving Paradise and by the time I returned was subject to sun, rain, snow, some form of hail/sleet, wind, swirling clouds - but despite various conditions was rewarded with some incredible sights and smells. Flowers are still blooming providing a wonderful color pallet and variety of smells; in the areas around Pan Point and above it looked as if the trees and area were spread with a light coating of powdered sugar. At one point when looking down into the valley from Pebble Creek the sun had pierced the clouds turning the river into this glowing, silver strand. Pretty incredible collection of visuals over the day.

I was surprised at the number of "contacts" over the day. Started slow but actually talked with a number of folks. One of the nice things I noticed over my past few "roves" I have had to make few requests for folks to stay on the trail. Yesterday for example out of my 70 + contacts only 4 were actually off trail. Hopefully that has been the experience of other Rovers as well. Maybe the additional signs and rovers have helped stem the behavior a bit....

- John

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The bears have arrived... Paradise!! This weekend there were multiple bears seen in the immediate Paradise area. One cinnamon colored bear in particular has been seen just outside the Paradise Inn cafe balcony and on the lower trails (Waterfall Trail, Alta Vista, Nisqually Vista, Myrtle Falls). It shows no fear of humans and has been within 10' of some visitors.

This is a great time to start contacting visitors in the Paradise area and educating them on bear safety, proper food storage, and garbage disposal. Drive with caution, there have also been several "bear jams" on the roads.

Cori Conner
U.S. Park Ranger
Mount Rainier National Park