Thursday, February 26, 2009

Volunteer Newsletter 4.2

January and February have been busy with planning meetings and budget meetings, meetings to plan budgets, and meetings to plan meetings! Ultimately, however, our summer volunteer program is beginning to take shape, and it will include several key volunteer opportunities that will have an influence on the shape of our program for years to come. Maybe one of these new positions is your dream job, or maybe you know someone who would be ideal. Spread the word! We want to find the best individuals possible. Here's a quick summary:

Longmire Campground Manager
First, let me introduce you to a position we've already hired. I'm pleased to announce that this summer's Longmire Campground Managers will be Jean and Harry Milan. Some of you had the privilege of working alongside Jean on flood restoration projects over the past two years. Jean and Harry will move into the partially-restored historic campground in May, and will coordinate its use and continued restoration by volunteers. One of their first responsibilities will be to organize a volunteer work day to clean up winter storm debris, set up platform tents, and de-winterize the new shower facilities. Welcome, Jean and Harry!

Volunteer Coordinators
Recognizing the important role that volunteers have taken on as partners in the stewardship of our natural and cultural resources at Mount Rainier, the park's management team has decided to support hiring several volunteer coordinators this summer to help organize volunteer activities in many of the park's key programs. Discussions are still underway on the details, but tentatively , here are five full-time volunteer positions we hope to hire this summer:

  • Citizen Science Coordinator: Responsible for organizing projects including amphibian and wetland surveys, and other programs drawing on public participation to gather scientific data, including possibly soundscape monitoring, wildlife surveys, and archological surveys. We're looking for an outgoing and physically-fit individual comfortable with wilderness travel who has a background in field research. This position has been advertised both as a volunteer position and as an SCA internship.
  • Botany Volunteer Coordinator: Responsible for organizing and leading projects including greenhouse management, seed collection, revegetation, and exotic plant control.
  • Maintenance Volunteer Coordinator: Responsible for projects in backcountry maintenance, historic restoration, and spring opening.
  • Trails Volunteer Coordinator: Responsible for organizing volunteers in trail maintenance and construction, including spring trail marking.
  • Volunteer Program Assistant: Responsible for working directly with me to manage the overall volunteer program, including volunteer recruitment, coordination of projects, strategic planning, tracking of paperwork, data entry, and leadership of any project that doesn't fit into one of the four categories listed above, including National Trails Day, National Public Lands Day, interpretation and Meadow Roving, and volunteer training. This position is also advertised both as a volunteer position and as an SCA internship.

All of these positions except the last one would last for a period of 3-4 months beginning in June or late May. The Volunteer Program Assistant would begin in May or late April and continue through mid October. All would include free park housing and reimbursement of basic living expenses at the rate of $80 per week. All are advertised for a single summer's commitment, but have potential to be recurring positions from year to year.

We're looking for highly qualified people in each of these positions, people with proven experience and expertise in the areas they would be providing leadership. If you apply for any of these positions, please detail your experience on your application, or feel free to supplement your application with a resume e-mailed directly to me at

Volunteer Teams
Some of the work that volunteers do at Mount Rainier, such as the five positions described above, require full-time commitments over many months. Other projects may only require the commitment of a single day. These opportunities will be listed in a calendar at the top of our volunteer blog as we get closer to the summer season, and include projects like trail maintenance, seed collection, revegetation, exotic plant control, snow shoveling, campground opening and restoration, wilderness cleanup, backcountry maintenance, and "sherpa" projects (carrying supplies into wilderness locations for trail or backcountry maintenance projects).

Other projects require specialized training and an ongoing commitment by teams of volunteers who participate on their own schedule, or on a schedule worked out with their team supervisor. Existing teams include our popular Meadow Rover, Curatorial, and Greenhouse programs, all of which have ongoing recruitment notices posted on our website. We're pleased to announce three new team opportunities:

  • Citizen Science Team: The members of this team will work with the Citizen Science Coordinator described above to conduct research and field surveys in areas throughout the park. Tasks may include monitoring amphibian species, soundscapes, wetland areas, or archeological resources.
  • Historic Landscape Restoration Team: These team members will work with our maintenance and cultural resources staff to restore the beautiful but crumbling WPA-era rock walls and other structures in the park's historic landmark district.
  • Historic (Costumed) Interpretation: Historic interpreters aren't just old naturalists! Well, some of us are, but what we're looking for are people interested in putting on historical costumes and interacting with park visitors, educating them about the park's history. These individuals may also participate in the annual "Shadows of the Past" living history presentations.

If you're interested in any of these teams, please submit an application online and we'll add you to our mailing list for that team. When team leaders have been hired for the summer, they will contact you with further information about spring training and summer work schedules.

Meadow Rover Mentors
Last but not least, a volunteer leadership opportunity that isn't posted on our public website, because it's only available to existing, experienced members of our Meadow Rover team. One of the best ways for new Meadow Rovers to become proficient in the program is to learn the ropes from an experienced rover. Many of you have already provided informal leadership in this area. We'd like to formalize this arrangement by identifying specific individuals who will commit to being at Paradise on specific dates to work with new volunteers. We'd like to have enough mentors to be able to schedule a weekly "Meadow Rover Staff Meeting" at 10:00 on Saturdays, where rovers new and old would gather with the Paradise lead interpreter and a seasoned Meadow Rover Mentor to share updates on conditions and areas of concern, and to provide hands-on training and guidance for new volunteers. Mentors would be asked to commit to attending on specific Saturdays throughout the summer.

If you're interested in serving as a Meadow Rover Mentor, please contact me directly at or 360-569-2211 ext. 3385.

In Other News...
Be sure to review the recent postings on our volunteer blog for news about other topics related to volunteers, including opportunities to volunteer as weather monitors for the National Weather Service, volunteer vacations offered through the Washington Trails Association, a major award given to our climbing program, a visit to Seattle by John Muir, discussion about deducting volunteer travel expenses on your federal taxes, and several recent local and national publications that mention Mount Rainier's volunteer program. In addition, thank you to those volunteers who responded to our call for people to edit the Pocket Guide to Mount Rainier being published by the Globe Pequot Press!

Thanks for your support,

Kevin Bacher
Volunteer Program Manager

Saturday, February 21, 2009

News and upcoming events

There are several current events relevant to volunteers going on at Mount Rainier this week. Here's a quick round-up:

Volunteers Needed
From West District Interpreter Curt Jacquot: Hi Staff and VIP Friends! We will be moving things from the Longmire Field Office and the Museum on Friday, February 27. We need to vacate the Field Office for a renovation. This is a small job for many or a big job for a few individuals. Please let me know (360-569-2211 ext. 3312) if you can help or not. Meet at the Museum at 9:00 AM. We'll go till 4:00 PM. Drinks, snacks, and a crock-pot of soup provided. Thanks in advance!

John Muir is coming to Seattle
This from David Graves: The National Parks Conservation Association is hosting a very special event this spring. John Muir, the father of the modern conservation movement, is coming to Seattle. Lee Stetson is an actor who has portrayed John Muir for years at Yosemite National Park and around the country. On March 19th, he will be visiting Seattle’s Town Hall for:

The Spirit of John Muir
This show is a fun romp through some of the very best of Muir's grand, thrilling adventures in his beloved western wilderness. The show includes Muir's encounters with a mighty Yosemite earthquake, a climb up Mount Rainier , dangerous Alaskan ice crevasses, snow blindness, and much more - all liberally salted with Muir's wilderness philosophy.

When: Thursday, March 19, 2009. Doors open at 6:00 PM ; Show starts at 6:30 PM

Where: Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Avenue (at Seneca Street)

Tickets purchased by March 13th, will be $7.00 plus applicable fees at: Tickets purchased at the door will be $10.00. For more information, please contact Shane Farnor at (206) 903-1444, x24 or

About Lee Stetson : Lee Stetson's plays include three one-person shows based on the life of naturalist John Muir, and a fourth based on both Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt. These productions, with Mr. Stetson in the title role, have been presented in Yosemite National Park since 1983 to more than a quarter of a million visitors. Additionally, the Muir shows have toured throughout the country to universities, parks, museums, wilderness and environmental organizations from Washington D.C. to Hawaii . Mr. Stetson lectures frequently on the arts and the environment, and spends a considerable portion of his time promoting the performing arts in the national parks. Lee's career has included founding and managing the Hawaii Performing Arts Company, being the Artistic Manager of both the Hawaii Theatre Festival and the Antique Theatre Festival of Idaho, and freelance directing throughout the Northwest and in Los Angeles . He is also featured in the upcoming Ken Burns’ documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

A poster for this event to post at your place of work can be downloaded at:

Volunteers publish foreign language brochures
Mount Rainier has been working with volunteers based at the National Park Service's Columbia Cascades Support Office in Seattle to translate park brochures for use by speakers of languages other than English. Interpretive Media Specialist Patti Wold has posted the brochures on our website:

Climbing Program wins national safety award
Here's a note from Superintendent's secretary Donna Rahier:

CONGRATULATIONS TO US!!! The two highest awards bestowed by the National Park Service for outstanding public and employee safety achievement – the Andrew Clark Hecht Public Safety Achievement Award and the Director’s Safety and Health Achievement Award – have been presented to Mount Rainier and Glacier Bay National Parks. This year, the Division of Risk Management was pleased to receive outstanding nominations from six regional winners competing for the public safety award and five regional winners competing for the employee safety award. Two separate review committees comprised of field, regional and headquarter NPS staff faced a challenging task to select the best from among such excellent contenders, but each review committee member put careful consideration into the selection process.

2008 Andrew Clark Hecht Public Safety Achievement Award
Mount Rainier National Park, Pacific West Region – Despite unforgiving conditions and the more than 9,000 climbers who visit Mount Rainier National Park annually, through innovative efforts of the Mount Rainier Climbing Program, other park staff and partners, the park was able to realize impressive decreases in injuries and fatalities over a sustained three year period. Enhanced communication, training, improved concessions management, and improved coordination among park programs has resulted in significant reductions in visitor injuries. Climbing-related search and rescues (SARs) have decreased from 1.14 per 1,000 climbers in 1998-2005 to 0.49 from 2006-2008. Injuries have also decreased, from 1.03 per 1,000 climbers in 1998-2005 to 0.35 in 2006-2008. Fatalities on the upper mountain have also decreased from 0.18 per 1,000 climbers in 2005-2008, and there were no fatalities in 2006-2008. Overall, 2008 had the least number of total park-wide search and rescue incidents (10) since 1987.

Mount Rainier's climbing program relies heavily on volunteers to staff upper mountain high camps and the climber information center at Paradise. Climbing volunteers, this award belongs to you as much as it does to the paid staff!

Are you deducting volunteer travel on your taxes?
There's been a very interesting discussion on our volunteer discussion group regarding deducting travel expenses incurred while volunteering on your Federal taxes. I am not a tax professional, and everyone should check with their own tax advisor to confirm this information; but the word is that travel to and from the park, when you're volunteering, can be deducted in Schedule A if you itemize on your taxes, in the "Gifts for Charity" section. You can claim the actual amount you spent on gas, if you've kept specific records, or a specified amount per mile, which in 2008 was 14 cents per mile. Given current gas prices, this is a good reason to start keeping good records! This is also the kind of discussion that demonstrates why it's worthwhile to join our free volunteer discussion group.

I blog, you blog, isn't everybody blogging?
Apparently not. A recent article on the blog of the Sunlight Foundation is called "The Feds are blogging," and discusses a new trend of openness in government through the use of blogs. They list a grand total of 40 such blogs currently active as a means of communicating interactively with the public, including--hey--this one! But only 40? I knew we were on the cutting edge, but given the size of the Federal government, and the importance of communicating with and listening to feedback from those we serve, that number seems a bit anemic. But maybe we'll inspire others! Meanwhile, if YOU have ideas about how to make this means of communicating with you BETTER, I'm all ears: post your ideas in the comments section at the end of this post! (And while you're at it, also check out

Family Getaways: Volunteer at National Parks

This month's Family Fun magazine has a nice article, beginning on page 45, about "Volunteer Outings," by Melissa Gaskill, subtitled "A mom and veteran volunteer shares four easy ways for familys to make a difference on vacation." The ideas include: 1. Count Wildlife (see; 2. Beautify Our Beaches (see, and, I might add,; 3. Protect Native Plants (see; and 4. Volunteer at National Parks (see and, I would add, In the final section, your own Mount Rainier Volunteer Manager is quoted!

"Our volunteer programs have benefits beyond physical work getting done," says Kevin Bacher, volunteer program manager at Mount Rainier. "They engage people in the parks. Families who come back in the future can say, 'That's my work. I did that.'"

The quote is based on my own experience. Here's a photo of my son Daniel working on Longmire Campground restoration on National Public Lands Day 2007. He's very excited, now that the campground is available for volunteers to use, to return this summer and camp in "his" campsite!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

With jobs scarce, volunteering on the rise


Volunteer organizations such as the Peace Corps and Teach for America say the floundering economy and President Barack Obama's call for service have led to a major increase in applications.... As a former community organizer, Obama advocated public service throughout his campaign and encouraged Americans to spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering. Obama's administration also has several initiatives promoting service, including expanding the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Snow-going Work

The News Tribune on Sunday had a great article about what it's like to work at Mount Rainier in the winter time. They interviewed and featured four employees at the park: Marne Mcardle, an interpretive ranger; John Piastuck, a backcountry ranger; Joe Palmer, a snow plow operator; and Vicki Brand, a waitress at the National Park Inn. They also included a section on how you can participate as a volunteer during the winter. Check out the whole article, along with photos, on The News Tribune website.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Virtual Matchmaker for Volunteers

Thanks to volunteer John Chao for pointing out this article in the Wall Street Journal:

Many Americans fortunate enough to have a solid job in a soft economy -- or newfound free time due to a layoff -- may consider participating in volunteer work to make use of their time and talents. Indeed, President Barack Obama has stumped for volunteerism in recent television commercials, urging Americans to pitch in around their communities during a difficult time.... The ranks of volunteers in America have fluctuated in recent years, but on average 27.2% of Americans volunteered between 2005 and 2007, according to survey data from the Corporation for National and Community Service in Washington, D.C. During 2007, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 60.8 million Americans donated 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service. "We have an unprecedented moment of need and opportunity for volunteering in America," said Sandy Scott, spokesman for the nonprofit service organization. Mr. Scott said the combination of the economic downturn and a drop in donations to charitable organizations means volunteer work has become even more important to the U.S. social fabric. Eager to roll up our sleeves but strapped for time, we sampled several free online services that match willing volunteers to organizations that need short-term assistance. (Many such organizations are indexed at, a governmental program that aims to serve as a one-stop shop for volunteer projects.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Volunteering can help build a network

From the Wall Street Journal:

From a job hunting perspective, volunteering is another form of networking — with the added bonus that an organization does reap the benefit of my time and skills. Of course, I don’t volunteer for the sole purpose of finding a job. Even though I have recently had more time to devote to volunteering, I would have dedicated my time regardless of whether I was working or not. Altruism goes beyond networking and provides its own reward.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Volunteers needed to review pocket guide and collect weather data

Two unique volunteer projects have come across my desk today:

Mount Rainier Pocket Guide
Damian Fagan, a freelance author in Bend, Oregon working with the Globe Pequot Press contacted me looking for someone who could review the text of a "Pocket Guide" he's putting together about Mount Rainier National Park. He suggested that maybe some of our volunteers could look it over and proofread it. I think that's a great idea, so I'm passing the project on to you. Here's a link to the DRAFT text of the guide. Download it, look it over, and then send any feedback or corrections you have to me. I'll compile the responses and send them on to Mr. Fagan. Please respond by February 17 if possible. Here's the complete request:

I am a freelance writer working on a project for the Globe Pequot Press about Mount Rainier. GPP is publishing a series of small guides to national parks called "Pocket Guides." About the size of the old Golden Guide natural history books, these introductory books will have 2 oragami-like maps in the front and rear pockets of the book; hence, their name. Patti Wold [our Interpretive Media Specialist] has taken a look at the text and I've made changes based upon her recommendations. I'm writing to you to see if there might be a volunteer who would be interested in taking a more in-depth review of the text. I don't think it would take too long, and I would appreciate any feedback. As a small 'thank you' the reviewers name would be included in the text and I'd make sure that they receive a copy when the book is out. They could make electronic edits and just e-mail the text back to me. I've attached the text so that you can see the length and format. You'll see in the text that there are hours listed for visitor centers, as well as program times and locations. Changes are inevitable and the caveat in the text is for visitors to "Check for current times and locations." Still, I'd like to be able to include current programs the park offers.

For those who contribute, be sure to keep track of the time you spend, and send that to me for tracking in our volunteer database.

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network
I also got an e-mail today from Greg Carstens, passing on a request from the National Weather Service for volunteer weather monitors in the communities around Mount Rainier National Park. Specifically, they want to monitor and study precipitation patterns, in order to improve their ability to predict and respond to flood events. If you're interested in participating in the study, send me an e-mail, and I'll pass the word along to Greg and his contact at the Weather Service. Here is Greg's original request, with more detail about what he's looking for:
Me and Ted Buehner [at NWS Seattle] need some help with a local weather project in and outside the park. Ted has asked me to see if anyone in the park is interested in helping out with this project inside the park as well as outside of the park. He knows like I do that some who work in the park also live right outside of it. Ted Buehner and Jeff Michalski are looking for volunteers interested in measuring local rainfall. This program called the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network will not cost the park itself one penny. That's the best part about it. It does require the volunteer to buy the standard 8 inch manual rain gauge which costs around $30.00. The National Weather Service and University of Washington Office of the State Climatologist sponsor the program. Jeff Michalski at NWS Seattle is the coordinator for the Mount Rainier and surrounding area for the Network. Ted has told me more than once it would be great if we could find at least a few volunteers who perhaps live in or around the communities of Ashford, Elbe, Mineral, Morton, Eatonville, Randle, and Packwood. The Network helps researchers and scientists monitor and study precipitation patterns and it also has a online intense precipitation report that goes immediately to the NWS Seattle office after it is reported. This feature is great to get a handle on flooding events. The website for the Network which originated at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado is Ted and Jeff would like to see more volunteers from the Cascade foothills so I told Ted I would write to you to see if we could help in at least some small way. I think the more volunteers in the area there are the better the NWS will have a fix on getting forecasts out for severe flooding. This is one way folks can help out their local community to say safe from severe flooding.