Thursday, July 30, 2009

Teens + Volunteering = AWESOME. A Case for Youth Involvement

Here's a great blog post on VolunteerSpot last week talking about youth volunteerism.

"Volunteerism is a way for kids to cut across social and financial boundaries and connect with people different from them."

Much of what we do at Mount Rainier has nothing to do with crossing between different social and economic groups. But that's not always true. SCA's Conservation Leadership Corps makes a special effort to reach out to diverse groups, not just the traditional groups that have connected with the national parks for decades. And check out our new Camping Adventure with My Parents program, including new photos I've just posted from this past weekend's group. As our volunteer and outreach programs slowly merge, there may be more and more opportunities for youth to become involved in ways that give them exposure to social needs as well as environmental ones.

I would also take minor issue with the idea that there are only two possible benefits to youth volunteerism: building job skills, and developing empathy with groups different than oneself. Here at Rainier, we also encourage a sense of stewardship, of responsibility in the natural world. That, I would argue, is also an awesome case for youth involvement.

Campground Regulations

I just recently managed to (finally) complete a set of rules and regulations concerning the use of the Longmire Campground for the housing of volunteers. As the campground grows more popular, so does chance of confusion regarding some of the ways the campground operates. I hope this sets things straight.

First, a little background. Two year ago, volunteer groups and members from the SCA helped to restore the old Longmire Campground. It had been dilapidated since the late 1960's. Volunteers came and built platform tents in 2007 and shower facilities in 2008. Now the campground is functional again, and is the only campground in the park that has public showers.

Usage Information and Guidelines

  • The Longmire Campground has been given over solely to the use of volunteers for the 2009 Summer/Fall Season.
  • Space in the campground can only be reserved by people who are actively volunteering for the park.
  • Thirty one campsites, nine platform tents and two group sites are available. No camper hookups are available.
  • Reservations for campsites or platform tents must be made through Nicholas Abel ( or Kevin Bacher (
  • You must check in with the Campground Hosts before setting up your campsite. The campground hosts this year are Jean and Harry Millan.

Camping Sites

There are 31 tent sites of various sizes throughout the Longmire Campground. Each site holds at least one two-person tent. Most come equipped with fire-grates or grate bases

Six camping sites have no tables or concrete campfire blocks. All other sites may have either tables or campfire blocks or both. Ask the Campground Host at check-in to determine your campsite comes equipped with.

Platform Tent Sites

The Longmire Campground is equipped with nine platform tents, each holding two people.

These sites are assigned at the discretion of the Campground Hosts, and cannot be reserved ahead of time by individuals. Individuals may ask for platform tents when checking in with the Campground Hosts, but no guarantee of availability is made.

Depending on how crowded the campsite is, you may not get a cot if you have a platform tent.

Group Sites

Two group sites are available, located at the south end of the Campground. Each can hold 5 two-person tents. They share an animal-proof food container. Parking is limited.


Each site contains at least one parking spot. Parking for larger vehicle can be limited. Make sure to note any concerns about parking or vehicle size when requesting a campsite.


Water is available at Comfort Station #1 (L-302) and #3 (L-305), on the as well as from the spigots along the west side of campground, near the platform tents. Water is only available from the spigots on the west side of the campground.

Toilets and Showers

Two working toilet facilities are available in the campground, one of which is ADA. Comfort Station #1 (L-302) is at the north end of the campground, and Comfort Station #3 (L-305) is at the south end of the campground. Comfort Station #2 is out of service.

Comfort Station #3 is equipped with three separate shower/toilet units. Hot water is available. One of the showers is ADA.


Trashcans are provided throughout the campgrounds. Large amounts of trash should be packed out.


Food should be packed away in vehicles or animal-proof lockers at night and when not in use.


Campfires are allowed only in designated fire-pits or concrete platforms (with or without the grates). Fires must remain in their designated areas.

Campfires must be attended at all times and must remain a safe and manageable size. A campfire must be completely extinguished when no longer attended.

Trash, including plastic, metal, and uneaten food is not allowed in campfires.

Any firewood used must be purchased or brought in. No firewood can be collected from anywhere inside the park. Wood is for sale at the National Park Inn in Longmire and outside the park in Ashford.


For the safety of the visitor and their pets, no pets are allowed within the Longmire Campground.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Keep Wildlife Wild Weekend: Wrap Up

First, I would like to congratulate the person who took this program and rolled with it: wildlife biologist Alyssa Herr. She did an excellent job in bringing together the different parts of this program and making sure that when it all came together it felt cohesive and smooth. I would give her an "Internet" round of applause.

The day started off at Tahoma Woods in the Education Center, where Alyssa Herr oriented the volunteers to the problem of food-conditioned animals in the park. She explained why food-conditioned are a danger to both humans and themselves. They can become aggressive towards humans in trying to obtain food, and are at risk to be hit by a car, or stockpile food from humans that will not keep over the winter.

Alyssa, aided by Curt Jacquot, gave several informative (and amusing) skits on how not to treat the animals, and how to inform visitors who do so.

After orientation, volunteers were split into five teams who moved between five locations: Longmire, Cougar Rock, Narada Falls, Paradise Picnic Area and the Paradise Parking Lot. They handed out flyer's, informed people on correctly connecting with the wildlife (at a distance), and generally educating people on the problem the food-conditioned wildlife. And the little kids love it.

All in all it was a great success. At the end of the day, munching on graciously provided pizza in the Community Building, I can say that I at least came away more knowledgeable, more appreciative, and more concerned about the plight of food conditioned wildlife. And if we don't work to keep the wildlife wild, then all the park becomes is a zoo, and I certainly don't want that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

First CAMP program a great success!

Last weekend, Mount Rainier National Park hosted the first of three weekend camping trips for urban families from the Seattle area. The "Camping Adventure with My Parents" (CAMP) program is intended as a first experience for families who had never been camping with their kids before. The weekend campout was the culminating experience of a series of events beginning in May that oriented the families to national parks and the camping experience. Eight families participated in the first weekend, with a total of 24 people, and joined ranger-led hikes, junior ranger programs, and evening campfire programs, between learning how to set up a tent, build a campfire, and cook dinner in the woods.

The group also participated in a volunteer project on Saturday afternoon, chipping in to help the Mount Rainier National Park Associates revegetate the landscape around the new Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise.

Another group of campers will arrive this Friday, and the third group will be here on July 31st.

Check out a full set of photos from the first CAMP weekend, or click here for a slide show.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Earn a cool Keep Wildlife Wild t-shirt!

Remember that this coming weekend will be Mount Rainier National Park's first annual Keep Wildlife Wild weekend! It's forecast to be a very hot weekend, so what better place to be than at 5,000 feet elevation in a gorgeous national park, in a cool t-shirt, helping to educate people about the importance of not feeding wildlife?

Here's a copy of the new t-shirt design. Thanks to Alyssa Herr, Wildlife Biologist, and her mother, who designed the shirt! All participants will receive a copy of the shirt at no cost, along with free entrance into the park and pizza after the event.

If you missed the announcement of the program, you can still get all of the details here; RSVP here; and read about it in The News Tribune here:

"We have such a big issue and it's becoming worse and worse," Herr said. "In the past, the park hasn't given it a lot of energy.... The problem is too big of an issue right now... not to do something about it."

Volunteer Adventures of the Past Two Weeks

Hello everyone, after a long absence (in Internet time) I've finally found a little respite to post a few choice words on the past couple of weeks. And perhaps no words better suit than these: busy, busy, BUSY! Between amphibian surveys, replanting Paradise, and the usual funny business, I just haven't had time to post on the blog. It's been so busy, I haven't had the time to report on just how busy it has been! The ultimate Catch-22. Well,my schedule has parted slightly, and now, finally, I have the chance to tell you just what has been going on.

On Friday, July 10, a group from the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium came down to the park and participated in an Amphibian Survey at Frog Heaven, led by SCA Intern Caitlin Kenny. Scouring the swampy land, they carefully counted the number of adult and juvenile frogs and recorded the number and size of egg masses. The even managed to find a couple of salamanders. Sounds like important work. I'm still waiting to receive pictures from one of the chaperone's with the group, but when I do I'll be sure to post them.

And I can't forget those dedicated volunteers who fought tooth and nail for parking on Saturday, July 11 and Saturday, July 18 to participate in the revegiation project at Paradise. I was up there with them on July 11th, and remain ever impressed by their enthisuiam in the face of t...soil. They were working alongside our Conservation Leadership Core friends from the SCA. I managed to snag a few pictures of the group digging away.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mount Rainier's Volunteer and Outreach Programs receive grants from Washington's National Park Fund

Throughout the flood recovery efforts following the great floods of November 2006, one of our most important partners was Washington's National Park Fund, a non-profit organization that raises funds to support Olympic, North Cascades, and Mount Rainier National Parks. Many, many important projects have been supported by the Fund over the years, not least of which was our invaluable partnership with the Student Conservation Association and its Recovery Corps and Conservation Leadership Corps programs.

Now the Fund has stepped forward again with several generous grants, two of which will directly support Mount Rainier's volunteer and outreach programs.

Camping Adventure with My Parents
Beginning this weekend, two dozen families from the Seattle area will be coming to Mount Rainier for their very first camping experience. Urban outreach ranger Brad Carlquist has spent the spring recruiting families and orienting them for this adventure, in cooperation with the Seattle City Parks department, especially the staff at Camp Long. The camping adventure will last three days, with eight families coming to the park on each of three weekends. The families will enjoy the park with hikes and ranger-led presentations, participate in volunteer service projects, and learn how to build campfires, set up tents, and cook dinner in the woods. They will document their experiences using handheld "Flip" cameras.

The CAMP program has been tried previously, with great success, at Sequoia and North Cascades National Parks, but our venture here at Rainier is larger than either of these programs. If all goes well, we hope to expand the program next year, and focus our recruitment efforts on communities that are traditionally underserved by the National Park Service.

Washington's National Park Fund has committed $12,000 toward the personnel and supplies necessary to get this innovative pilot program off the ground at Mount Rainier.

Volunteer Outreach
This year, four volunteer coordinators were hired to work within key programs at Mount Rainier, including plant ecology, citizen science, trails, and maintenance. These four individuals, Sarah Rosenthal, Caitlin Kenney, Colum Lang, and Tim Cronin, have been tasked with identifying volunteer projects, recruiting groups and individuals, and leading volunteer opportunities in the field. So far, the program has been highly productive, and we anticipate many new volunteer opportunities to be posted on our calendar soon--and many more unadvertised opportunities are already available for groups. In addition, Harry and Jean Millan are serving as Campground Managers in the Longmire Campground, providing campsites, platform tents, and hot showers for the use of visiting volunteers!

Washington's National Park Fund has committed $18,800 to support this program into next year.

Other projects
The Fund has also committed another $15,000 to support educational programs at Mount Rainier, a program called "Connecting Kids to Parks"; and $10,000 to support Paradise Meadow Restoration, a program that makes extensive use of volunteers.

We are thrilled to be continuing this exceptional partnership with Washington's National Park Fund! For further information, and to find out how you can contribute to future projects, visit the Fund's website at

Volunteer and Outreach Program quoted in the NY Times!

It's amazing, sometimes, how far news spreads! Here's an op-ed piece called "Michelle's Next Mission" that just appeared in the New York Times, of all places, quoting me talking about our outreach program. As you may know already, Mount Rainier's outreach program has recently been merged into the volunteer program. We're working on ways to involve volunteers in the outreach program and vice versa, so you can expect to see more and more about that synergy here on this blog. Meanwhile, the grand experiment we're currently working on in our outreach program is called "CAMP": Camping Adventure with My Parents, which will bring families from the Seattle area to Mount Rainier for camping experiences on three successive weekends starting July 17. Tim Egan from the New York Times found out about our program and called for a quote--in an article addressed to Michelle Obama, of all things! What a small world.

And Mrs. Obama, if you're listening, we would be thoroughly honored to host you at Mount Rainier National Park, as part of our volunteer program, our outreach program, or both.

From the New York Times:

"It’s not that this generation of young people is different from previous ones. Human beings need nature to live full lives — always have, always will. Thus, when rangers at Rainier started an experiment this summer to bring families from Seattle’s poorest neighborhoods on their first-time camping excursions in the park, 'we had far more people who wanted to try it than we were able to accommodate,' said Kevin Bacher, a park ranger...."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Still need Meadow Rover Mentors

We remain in need of more Meadow Rover Mentors for both Paradise and Sunrise, though especially Paradise.

If you have been Meadow Roving for awhile, no doubt you've picked up some tips and tricks along the way. Now would be the time to pass them on. Come up to Paradise or Sunrise at least one Saturday this season and mentor. Share your stories of succesful (and not so succesful) roves and teach those less experianced Rovers how to protect the meadows, inform visitors, and have some fun at the same time. It's up to you guys to pass along your hard earned experiance.

Signing up is easy. Just find the location you want below and click on the link. You can then choose the days you will be availible. We will contact you if we need you to mentor that day. If you want to change the days you put down, just e-mail me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

News on the Paradise Revegetation Project:

First, a bit of bad news. The Paradise Planting on Sunday, July 12 and Sunday, July 19 have been canceled due to the low number of people signed up for these days. The Plantings on Saturday, July 11 and Saturday, July 19 are still taking place. We decided it made more sense to cancel the plantings on July 12 and 19 and focus our energy on the remaining dates. We hope this doesn't inconvenience anyone, and we encourage anyone still interested to join the July 11 and July 18 plantings. There is still time!

If you are already planning on attending, here is some important information to remember:

Teams will begin planting around 8:30 - 9:00 AM and continue planting till around 4:00 PM. The schedule is somewhat flexible, but the sooner you arrive the better. You can arrive at 10:00 AM and be fine, but if you arrive at 1:00 PM there might not be anyone to show you how to plant.

You should bring:

  • Raingear

  • Knee Pads

  • Gloves (we have some in Longmire if you don't have your own)

  • Food and Water (very important, especially water)

  • Sunscreen and Sunglasses (as important as water at Paradise)

Tools will be provided on site.

So, in recap, the Paradise Plantings on July 12, 19 has been canceled, but the plantings on July 11, 18 are still happening. The events start at 8:30-9:00 and end at 4:00. You must bring gloves, food, water, but tools will be provided.

Thanks again for signing up, hope to see you there.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Group and individual service projects are now available!

Mount Rainier National Park is now at full summer staff, and we're ready for your group volunteer project! If you're a member of an employee organization, a civic service group, a boy scout troop, a youth group, or a garden club and would like to spend a day or a weekend working in partnership with us to protect your national park, now is the time to give us a call.

We now have projects ready to go in the following areas:

  • Trail maintenance: Spend a day brushing trails, setting water bars, and repairing erosion. We'll provide the tools and the project leader, you provide the muscle! Trail work is needed near Longmire and Paradise, on the Wonderland Trail, at Carbon River, along the Westside Road, and at Glacier Basin. We can work with groups of any size, though larger groups will likely be broken into smaller groups (of ten or less each), under the leadership of our trail crews and our summer Trails Volunteer Coordinator, Colum Lang. This opportunity is appropriate for older teens and adults.
  • Revegetation: Help us restore the beautiful subalpine meadows at Paradise! Two major revegetation weekends are already on our calendar and coming up quickly, July 11-12 and July 18-19. 56,000 plants need to be put into the ground in very short order! Other project dates are available throughout the summer and early fall. This project is perfect for large groups of all ages.
  • Seed Collection and Exotic Plant Removal: In addition to putting plants into the ground, we also need to pull out the plants that don't belong: oxeye daisies, non-native thistles, knotweed, and other plants that displace the beautiful flowers and grasses that ought to be here. In addition, as the native plants reach maturity, we need to collect their seeds to grow in the greenhouse for future planting. These projects are perfect for small groups! Seed collection is best for adults, but kids are perfect for yanking weeds.
  • Campground Restoration: We've made dramatic progress toward restoring the historic Longmire Campground for use by volunteers. Already, we have about 30 sites roughed-out, in addition to eight platform tents and a shower building. More work needs to be done, however! Site improvement remains, including lining trails and campsites with river rocks, scattering windfall, excavating historic rockworks from the moss, and replacing picnic tables. These projects are perfect for families of all ages.
  • Special Projects: In addition to the major categories listed above, consider choosing from one of the special, one-time projects on our work list. Join us for Keep Wildlife Wild Weekend, for example, on July 25! Other projects include removal of old telephone cables from wilderness areas along the Ohanapecosh River; improvement of our new properties along the Carbon River; construction of picnic tables; and cleanup of roadside debris on Forest Service land adjacent to the park. Have other ideas? Let us know--we'd love to work with you!
  • Consider Camping Out: As you plan your trip to Mount Rainier, consider the option of camping with your group in the Longmire Campground. We have individual and group campsites ready for you to use, along with platform tents and a bath house with hot showers that are available only to volunteers. A group fire ring provides a perfect spot for your group to relax either before or after your project. All of these services are offered free as part of your service experience!

What About Individuals? Lots of opportunities are available for individuals as well. Start by reviewing the options on our volunteer calendar at the top of this page. Click on any opportunity to learn more and to sign up online. Here are some of the options currently available:

  • Join our scheduled revegetation weekends and help us plant 56,000 seedlings at Paradise!
  • Sign up to help us Keep Wildlife Wild and gather observations about habituated wildlife.
  • Join a trail crew sponsored by the Washington Trails Association, and help rebuild the Glacier Basin Trail, destroyed by flooding in 2006.
  • Participate in a work crew organized by the Mount Rainier National Park Associates, visiting monthly throughout the summer to help with trail work and revegetation.
  • If you'd like to contribute on an ongoing basis, become a Meadow Rover, a historic interpreter, or a member of our Citizen Science Team. Our new Citizen Science Coordinator, Caitlin Kenney, will be sending out a schedule for training and research projects within the next week or two.
  • Individuals are welcome to help with our park seed collection, revegetation, exotic plant removal, and greenhouse rangers. Drop us a note any time and we'll put you in touch with our new Plant Ecology Volunteer Coordinator, Sarah Rosenthal, who will help you to coordinate your schedule with theirs. Or, if you have trade skills, especially carpentry, we'll connect you with our maintenance and carpentry rangers and put you to work helping to restore historic structures and rebuild backcountry cabins!
  • Join us any time for drop-in historic restoration work in the Longmire Campground--just let us know when you're coming and we'll put you to work!
  • Finally, mark National Public Lands Day on your calendar, September 26: A full day of projects of all kinds that will wrap up another successful season of volunteer partnerships at Mount Rainier National Park!

Give us a call or send us a note
There are no shortage of opportunities for both individuals and groups. Contact us any time to become one of our valuable partners. Call Kevin Bacher or Nick Abel at 360-569-2211 ext. 3385, or send an e-mail to See you out on the trails!

Local host families needed for Japanese volunteers

For its 16th year, the Japan Volunteers-in-Parks Association is returning to Mount Rainier next month. Host families are needed for the participants, who will be here for about three weeks working on a trailhead construction project at Paradise. Hosts are needed who live between Eatonville and the park's Nisqually Entrance. The program typically rents a vehicle and provides carpool transportation for all of its members, within that Eatonville-to-park corridor.

My own family hosted a student two summers ago and had a wonderful experience. Please consider participating in this great opportunity! Here are the details from Mika Moore, who is coordinating the program on our end:


Mount Rainier National Park needs host families from our community to support the J-VIPA program this summer.

10 participants are coming from Tokyo, Japan to Mount Rainier National Park to work between August 22nd (Saturday) and September 12th (Saturday).

They come here at their own expense and work in the park as volunteers. We need YOUR support to make this program successful.

The host family provides the place to stay, food, and you treat them as your family, not as your guest. The students work Monday through Thursday. We are planning a Welcome potluck party on August 22nd to meet with host families and a Farewell potluck party on September 11th.

The host family receives no monetary award, but you will receive great memories from them. GUARANTEED.

Please give me a call if you are interested or have any questions.
Mika Moore, 360-569-2211 ext. 2379

Friday, July 3, 2009

Help Keep Wildlife Wild!

Photo (c) Dave Stiles, used with permission
 Announcing: The 1st Annual Keep Wildlife Wild Weekend at Mount Rainier National Park!What do gray jays in the picnic area, red foxes at Narada Falls, and black bears in the campground have in common? They are all part of Mount Rainier's extraordinary and diverse wildlife population, and they are all at risk due to feeding by park visitors!

Join us on July 25 to help spread the word about the importance of keeping wildlife wild. With the help of volunteers, we will focus on wildlife protection, observation and education.

Feeding wildlife--even by leaving food and trash unsecured for animals to find--creates unnatural behaviors in animals called food-conditioning. Once an animal is food-conditioned it begins to seek out people to beg and steal human food from. This behavior is unhealthy for the animals and puts them at risk of injury and starvation. The park currently has many food-conditioned animals including deer, chipmunk, squirrels, birds, bears and foxes, some of which have been killed trying to crossing roads to obtain food.

Mount Rainier is dedicated to protecting wildlife by educating visitors on the important reasons why feeding or approaching wildlife is harmful and dangerous--and you can help in a very meaningful way! Mount Rainier National Park’s Keep Wildlife Wild Weekend gives volunteers a chance for active resource stewardship through education and observation.

The day will begin at the park's Education Center (click here for a map) at 9:00 a.m. with a short orientation by park staff. Park biologists will give information on wildlife feeding, proper food storage and native wildlife species. Interpretive rangers will give tips on creative communication techniques. Volunteers will be given data sheets to collect important information on wildlife observed as well as to document incidents of wildlife feeding or food-conditioned behavior. This information will be used by biologists to address wildlife feeding in the park.

Groups will be assigned different stations throughout the park where wildlife is at risk for being fed by visitors. At each station, volunteers will have the important task of educating visitors about the dangers of feeding wildlife through handouts and verbal communication. Volunteers will rotate through the different stations to give them the opportunity to explore wildlife protection in different areas of the park.

After the work day, volunteers may gather for a recap on the event and to share stories and celebratory pizza in the park’s Community Building (map). Camping is also available for volunteers in the Longmire Campground either Friday or Saturday night.

To RSVP, visit our event page at Join Mount Rainier in helping to keep wildlife wild!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

UMC Volunteers help restore Longmire Campground

Here's a report from Jean Millan on a great group that helped us out last weekend. Other groups who'd like to do the same can call us any time!

On June 29th a group of energetic, enthusiastic youth from Gig Harbor United Methodist Church took a break from their camping trip at Mount Rainier to help in the restoration of the Longmire V.I.P. Campground. After a morning of hiking they helped campground host Jean Millan switch out some heavy platform tents and then stored two extra heavy platforms. While two of the youth moved delicate plants out of a pathway, the rest of the group tackled cleaning up debris from a large evergreen that had fallen during a winter storm and had damaged several tent sites. By the time they were done, the transformation was fantastic. We now have access to three more tent sites thanks to the six youth and three adults who made short work of an enormous mess. Their gift of service was greatly appreciated.

What's new at Mount Rainier National Park

Lots new at Mount Rainier this week: road repairs, changes at Sunrise, volunteer program updates, changes at Ohanapecosh, wildlife issues, new historical interpretation programs, new regulations about guns in the park, astronomy programs, and wildflowers getting ready to bloom. Read all about it in the News Tribune!

What's new at Mount Rainier National Park | The News Tribune

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Still Looking for Parade Volunteers

The annual Eatonville 4th of July Parade is this... 4th of July... (sort of obvious when I say it like that) at 12:00 PM. We're still looking for volunteers willing to get out there and represent the park by participating in the parade. Sadly, neither our Superintendent Dave Uberuaga or Acting Superintendenting Randy King will be able to participate. This makes it all te more important that we get some volunteers out on the streets.

To particpate, you must be at the Eatonville High School by 11:45. Parking is often a problem, so consider coming early and enjoying a breakfast in town.

No need to let either Kevin or I know, just show up in your volunteer shirt and we should be good to go.

Happy 4th of July.