Wednesday, November 5, 2008

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.

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