Sunday, October 19, 2008

The end of an era (and beginning of another)

Octobers are always bittersweet in the volunteer office. The summer season is wrapping up, the leaves are turning brilliant colors, and there's a chill in the air. (Are those snowflakes drifting through the branches?) At the same time, a seasonal program like ours can get pretty intense in the summer time, and we look forward to the "slow" months to step back, catch our breath, recharge, and plan for the next year. That explains the lack of posts to this blog over the past weeks: there's less to report than usual, but there are also a lot of distractions not present earlier in the summer. In case you weren't aware, we opened a brand new visitor center last week, and next week I'll be out of the office all week participating in our interpretive program's annual staff retreat, helping to set strategy for the future of the volunteer program. When I am in the office, I've been madly typing e-mails and making phone calls, wrangling volunteer hours in preparation for the end-of-(fiscal)-year reports due on October 31--an all-consuming process. We also have a major conference of the National Association for Interpretation coming up in mid-November in Portland to prepare for. So, whew, it's autumn, but things haven't really slowed down much yet!

October is also bittersweet for a more important reason. The last of our Mount Rainier Recovery Corps members left the park at the end of September, and Jill Baum and Ginny Galbreth have stayed on for a few weeks just to wrap up the program. When I came in to catch up on some e-mail today, the last pile of supplies was sitting on my chair: radios, records, uniform shirts.

After almost two years of working with Jill Baum, it hardly seems possible that the Mount Rainier Recovery Initiative has finally come to a close. It's been a tremendously successful partnership, one that has not only gotten a huge amount of work done, but one that has made major strides toward making volunteerism an integral part of everything we do at Mount Rainier National Park. I'm grateful to Jill for her leadership in this important enterprise, and am also grateful for her friendship. I will miss the wonderful young people she recruited over the past two years, and I will miss her most of all.

Of course, this is not the end of volunteerism at Mount Rainier, nor the end of our partnership with SCA, nor even the end of our work on flood recovery. Our volunteer program continues, better than ever; I'm dying to share with you the statistics from this past year, once they're finally compiled, because I suspect they're going to be impressive. We will continue to hire SCA interns, as we always have, including, hopefully, several who will work directly with volunteers next summer (so keep an eye on SCA's recruitment pages for the announcement of these positions). And flood recovery continues full-speed-ahead at Carbon River, Glacier Basin, and elsewhere.

When we held our farewell gatherings for Jill, I presented her with a copy of Ruth Kirk's book "Sunrise to Paradise," signed by people all over the park. I chose this book as a memento because it captures the spirit and history of Mount Rainier's first hundred years as a national park--and because Jill and her fellow leaders from SCA, over the past two years, have helped write the preamble to the next chapter in Mount Rainier's history. It's one that will continue to be written, in years to come, by each of you who participate as volunteers. I believe that we are at the beginning of an era: one in which volunteers, more than ever before, work together with professional park rangers in stewardship of this grand place.

Thank you, Jill, for your part in making it happen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Jill, Kevin, and all of the volunteer leaders!