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 www.nps.gov/mora or rainiervolunteers.blogspot.com.

# # #
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 www.thesca.org.

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: http://mms.nps.gov/mora/cam/west.jpg
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 www.nps.gov/mora

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.