Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tacoma Teachers Volunteer at Mount Rainier National Park

Phil and Lisa Hertzog spent several days this summer volunteering at Mount Rainier National Park. Phil teaches 10th Grade Biology at Stadium High School, while Lisa teaches 8th Grade Math at the new First Creek Middle School.

The Hertzogs served as Meadow Rovers on the trails surrounding Paradise on the west side of the Park. Their duties consisted of walking the trails and educating Park visitors on how to protect the fragile subalpine meadows. One footstep can destroy over 20 plants and 10 people walking across the meadows to the same snow patch can create a social path that can result in erosion and loss of native vegetation. With over 1.5 million visitors a year to Mount Rainier National Park, the Meadow Rover Program helps inform visitors to stay on the trails and to protect a significant national resource.

One of the biggest challenges Phil faced as a Meadow Rover was dealing with a group of fifty Korean Middle Schoolers. The students had never seen snow before and raced across the fragile meadows to have a snow ball fight. “As the students were trampling avalanche lilies, lupine, and pink mountain heather, I had to use hand gestures to communicate with the non-English speaking students about the damage being done to the meadows,” he said. Phil diplomatically got the students back on the trail and hiked them up another 300 yards where the students accessed a large snow field to continue their snowball fight without damaging the vegetation. Later the students spotted Phil at the Jackson Visitor Center and waved him over to join in a group photograph.

The Hertzogs also helped out with “The Shadows of the Past” Living History Program held at Longmire in the Park on the evening of August 15. Lisa carried a lantern to light the way for a group of 50 Park visitors on the “Trail of the Shadows” that runs 1 mile around Longmire Meadow. As an interpretive ranger made introductory remarks, volunteers dressed as historical characters, such as John Muir, would appear out of the darkness along the trail and describe their role in the history of Mount Rainier National Park. Lisa, Phil and other lantern bearers would light up the characters' faces as they acted out their parts and made for a magically evening in the shadow of Mount Rainier.

The Hertzogs plan to incorporate their volunteer experiences at Mount Rainier into their biology and math classroom lessons. Both Phil and Lisa encourage other Tacoma School District Teachers to consider volunteer opportunities at the Park.

Volunteer Opportunities at Mt. Rainier National ParkSeveral volunteer opportunities are available for both students and teachers at Mount Rainier National Park this fall and next summer. Volunteering at the Park can help you and your students improve science skills and help out our community. As a volunteer, you also have opportunities to participate in Park Service training sessions that may benefit your classroom curriculum.

This fall, the Park Service needs volunteers to help plant up to 140,000 plants at the site of the old Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise on the west side of the Park. The Park Service opened a new Visitor Center last fall and completed work this summer to allow revegetation of the old center site to start this month.

Will Arnesen, Mount Rainier National Park Restoration Ecologist, will lead the planting efforts and has set up the following the following weekends for groups who would like to help out: Sept. 19/20, Sept. 26/27, and Oct. 3/4.

Groups are encouraged to sign up for any of the above dates by contacting Will via e-mail at or calling (360) 569-2211 ext. 3374. Students under the age of 18 will need to have parents sign a National Park Service permission form. Individuals that would like to help out are welcome to drop by the old Visitor Center Site located in the lower Paradise Parking lot on Saturday September 26 and Saturday October 3. Individuals may be able to drop in on the other 4 dates listed above if we have other groups sign up for those days. Please contact Will to find out if planting will occur on those days if you have a strong interest. All volunteers should bring rain gear, work gloves and be ready to work in muddy conditions since our native plants need lots of water to get them growing upon planting.

The Park also has a number of volunteer opportunities next summer. These opportunities include patrolling the Paradise and Sunrise trails to educate visitors on how to protect the fragile sub alpine meadows, assisting with park research efforts, helping with trail maintenance, and participating in interpretive history programs. You can find out more information about these activities by going to the Park’s Volunteer Website at or contacting Kevin Bacher, Mount Rainier National Park Volunteer and Outreach Program Manager, at or (360) 569-2211 ext. 3385.

Thank you to Phil Hertzog of Stadium High School, who wrote this article and can also talk to you about his volunteer experience at Mount Rainier. He can be reached via District phone at 253 571-3176 x-3176.


the philippine island said...

this would really fun... how i wish i can to go there and experience this amazing event.

Acai said...

What a great event, it looked like a lot of fun. Mount Rainier is such a beautiful place. I've visited once and have always wanted to go back.