Friday, October 30, 2009

Volunteer Numbers Exceed Last Year!

Wow, what a year it's been. Between restoring Longmire Campground for the exclusive use of volunteers (that ones been a lifesaver), and organizing volunteers for everything from National Public Lands Day to Lantern Bearers for Shadows of the Past, we've really outdone ourselves, and the number show it.

The Official Volunteer Statistics for Fiscal Year 2009 are as follows:

Annual Activity and Expense Report
Mount Rainier National Park
Report Date: Oct 29, 2009
Fiscal Year: 2009


Volunteer Coordinator and Park Information


Total Volunteers: 1,865 (up from 1,837 last year, a new record!)
Alpha Code: MORA
VIP Coordinator: Kevin Bacher
VIP Coordinator Phone: 360-569-2211
Coordinator Email:


Volunteer hours by category:


Administration: 610.00
Campground Host: 1,740.50
Cultural Resource Management: 4,031.00
General Management: 0.00
Interpretation: 17,016.50
Maintenance: 1,966.00
Natural Resource Management: 10,425.50
Protection/Operations/Law Enforcement: 35,928.75
Training: 513.00

[Total hours: 72,231.25] (up from 70,130 last year!)


Program costs by category:


Housing: $ 5,847.00
Meals: $ 9,295.00
Recognition/Award: $ 721.00
Supplies: $ 24,758.00
Training: $ 3,094.00
Transportation: $ 2,516.00
Uniforms: $ 736.00

[Total costs: $ 46,967.00]


Volunteer Program Highlight


This year was the first since Mount Rainier's great flood in November of 2006 that has not been directly supported by the Mount Rainier Recovery Corps, a partnership developed with the Student Conservation Association to recruit volunteers and lead recovery efforts. Instead, the volunteer program built on the partnerships developed during that era and the lessons learned to create new opportunities, including a major trail construction project at Glacier Basin led by the Washington Trails Association that brought almost 500 volunteers into the park. Four SCA interns were hired to serve as volunteer coordinators in key programs including trails, plant ecology, citizen science, and volunteer management, and a fifth volunteer was hired directly to help with the meadow rover program at Sunrise. All of these strategies combined to keep participation high despite the receeding urgency of flood recovery. On National Public Lands Day, 223 volunteers participated park-wide, a new record; volunteer hours were up from last year; and for the whole year, our total number of volunteers set a new record as well. We also re-opened the historic Longmire Campground this year, restored by volunteers for the exclusive use of volunteers and other park groups, and managed by a pair of campground hosts; this was a tremendous asset for volunteers who wished to stay for multiple days.




How many people at the park require VIP Program Management Training: 7


Optional Information Regarding Housing VIPs and Campground Hosts


Number of Campground Hosts: 5
Number of VIPs housed in Permanent Structures: 53
Number of VIPs housed in Trailers: 7

Trailer Pads for Volunteers: 7


Other Information


Number of SCAs: 13
SCA Hours: 11,859
Number of Artists in Parks: 0
Artist in Parks Hours: 0
Number of International VIPs: 6
International VIPS Hours: 550
Number of Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps: 0
Volunteer Senior Ranger Corps Hours: 0
Number of Boy Scouts: 74
Boy Scout Hours: 524
Number of Girls Scouts: 0
Girl Scout Hours: 0

What a year! As you can see we're steadily improving our volunteer program, and with each improvement, more opportunities for volunteering arise. Just remember, we couldn't do it without the dedicated support of volunteers like you. Congratulate yourself on a year done well, and remember to come back next year.

Hope to see you then.

Friday, October 23, 2009

WTA Volunteers forge ahead at Glacier Basin

"Although much of the Glacier Basin Trail reroute at Mount Rainier National Park has been completed, it won’t be until next season that the work is finally done."

Thus begins a nice article in the News Tribune yesterday, which properly attributes much of the work that has been done on this major flood recovery project to volunteers who have worked in partnership with the National Park Service and the Washington Trails Association.

WTA's efforts have been a major asset at Mount Rainier over the past three years, especially on the Glacier Basin project. Our records show 496 WTA volunteers in the park this summer, who contributed 5,292 hours of service, not counting travel time. Both of those are record numbers: even in 2007, the year following our big flood, WTA's work totalled a mere 4,971 hours; and last year, the previous record year for volunteer participation, only 336 volunteers participated.

We're still compiling the final numbers for our program this year, but there's no question that WTA will be responsible for a large percentage of our total volunteer hours, and an even larger percentage of our total numbers.

WTA's efforts are made possible, of course, by hundreds of individual volunteers; but they are also supported by major grants from Boeing Corporation, which has committed $60,000 to WTA in 2010. Their support is also invaluable! (Individual donations are also welcome.)

We look forward to continuing these productive partnerships at least through 2010, so keep an eye on the WTA website next spring to find more opportunities to participate. There are few things more rewarding that building a trail that will be used for generations to come!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sweet Sunrise 2009 Stats

Good news from Sunrise. Julia Pinnix sent me some really awesome statistics on volunteers at Sunrise. They're some cool figures if you break them down, and they say some awesome things about our volunteers.

2009 Sunrise Meadow Rover Statistics:

51 VIPs contacted 10, 541 visitors at Sunrise this summer!!!
Of the 51 VIPs, 20 came only once to Sunrise.

Five volunteers totaled 3,417 contacts at Sunrise. Meaning that of 51 VIP, less than a tenth made more than thirty percent of the visitor contacts! Those are some dedicated volunteers.

· David Howerton spent 255 hours, contacted 1,575 visitors!!
· Gary Knudson and Martha Scoville spent 166.5 hours each and contacted 883 visitors!
· Pete Sabin spent 126 hours, contacted 444 visitors!
· Dan Purnell spent 107.5 hours, contacted 515 visitors!

These folks truly deserve recognition for their work.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Season-in-Review: WTA Crew Forge New Trail

Kevin passed this article along to me, and o-man, is it deserved. The Washington Trails Association has had work parties in the park (this is a rough estimate) nearly every week for the past four months. Often time it has been the same dedicated individuals coming back time and time again to work. We're talking about super volunteers here. So read on friends, and be amazed at how much work was done.

WTA Crews Forge New Trail for Climbers and Families at Mount Rainier

As the summer hiking season has come to a close, so too have some of our summer season's trail projects. In September, WTA trail crews wrapped up a summer of hard work on our single biggest project of the year, the Glacier Basin Trail reroute at Mount Rainier National Park.

Is the project completed? Not quite. About 5,000 feet of new trail has been constructed, a stretch that lies directly uphill from the stretch of trail that was heavily damaged in the now historic flooding of late 2006. Since the project began in 2008, WTA has hosted more than 68 work parties with over 186 individual volunteers contributing more than 7,000 hours of manual labor. These volunteers experience all that goes in to building new trail: clearing the corridor of blowdown and duff (organic material), removing stumps and rocks, constructing structures such as rock walls and fords - ultimately creating a solid and sustainable tread. WTA's involvement in the Glacier Basin reroute was made possible in part by a generous grant from The Boeing Company and financial contributions from hikers like you.

Hikers have not been introduced to this new route yet; the ends were intentionally left unfinished, and will be knitted together with the existing trail early next season. You are still welcome to visit the Glacier Basin Trail, however-- a temporary path has been sketched out near the riverbed in the floodplain (see this August 13 trip report for details.)

According to Carl Fabiani, Mount Rainier National Park's trail programs coordinator, a full season of work lies ahead before we can call this project done. "This fall, we have a lot of rock to remove." Blasting operations began the week after Labor Day. "Next year, another 2,000 feet of new trail will be built." In all, the Glacier Basin reroute involves a mile and a half of new trail construction.

You can also help by making a financial contribution to WTA. Give now to support the Glacier Basin reroute and dozens of other trail projects this fall.

Truly magnificent. 7,000 hour and 5,000 feet is no small feat (pun intended). Seriously though, a round of applause for the WTA.

At Mount Rainier National Park, it's groups like the WTA who form a solid backbone for our volunteer program. Groups that come back year after year, whose ability to work independently and proven track record mean that they get the job done quickly and efficiently, these are the groups we rely on most of all. Working with the WTA, Carl can rest assured that a major project will be handled, letting his crew fix everything else in the park. If we didn't have the WTA to work with, I question whether projects could be done in the time they're done now. So lets be thankful we have organization like the WTA to work with.

And if you're ever interested, I encourage you to join the WTA on a work party or two. See what you think, and more likely than not you'll be hooked.

I'll meet you on the trail,


Thursday, October 8, 2009

High School and REI - Oh My! (Part 2)

Hello again, I’m back for part two of my blog post. As you many remember, in my previous post, I talked about the closing of the season at Mount Rainier National Park, the steadily changing weather, and the two volunteer groups that visited the park last week. Volunteers from MEAD Alternative High School and volunteers from REI Adventures joined Will Arnesen and his Revegetation team in sprucing up the newly renovated Paradise Lower Parking Lot.

REI Adventures is based out of the REI Headquarters in Kent, Washington. They organize and run wilderness adventures of all types: from sea kayaking to mountain climbing. REI volunteer groups of all sizes and types have been coming to the park for years. In fact, REI played an important role in help clean up the park after the 2006 floods. They’re no strangers to volunteer work at Mount Rainier.

Of all the groups that have come into the park so far, REI Adventures has excited me the most, if only because I helped coordinate the group from the start. The REI Adventure project has been a long time in the making, and when so often we fly by the seat of our pants, it’s refreshing to have a project that has bee growing and changing for several months. To have a successful project come to fruition is a good feeling.

And how successful it was! A good indicator of the success of a group volunteer event is how many group members attend. Together, more than thirty individuals from REI attended. A full group is always good news, but when individual volunteers, unaffiliated with any group, come to join you know you have done even better. And a number of dedicated individual volunteers did indeed come and helped out with the planting. I don’t have the final numbers yet, but between REI Adventures and our individual volunteers, over 40 volunteer were at Paradise.

Even the weather didn’t deter these hardy folks. While this photographer admits to running back to the car every ten minutes to warm up, the REI volunteer braved cold and snow to get the Job done.

Last weekend was perhaps the last great group volunteer event of the season. Our last big hurrah before snow covers the park. And I think REI did it justice. I'm glad they came down, and more than that I'm happy with the entire program. I feel so privileged that I was able to take part in a volunteer program as great as the one at Mount Rainier.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More National Public Lands Day photos

I just received a set of photos from Eas and Kala Easwaran, two of our "official" volunteer photographers, who captured some great images from National Public Lands Day. Here's a slideshow of their images; if you want to look at them individually, you can check them out on our Picasa page.

Thank you, planters!!

Sounds like last weekend was another successful one at Paradise for the planting crews. I got this note from Restoration Ecologist Will Arnesen:

Last weekend was once again very successful. Weather was pretty harsh but we had an awesome set of volunteers who weathered out the day until near 4:00 PM. The end result was alot of happy volunteers and about 10,000 plants put into the ground. It was a great day, in spite of the weather.
Our goal was to plant 130,000 plants in a single month, and with the help of hundreds of individual and group volunteers, we are now within reach of achieving that goal by the end of our regular park planting crew's season. It is a huge understatement to say that that would NOT have been possible without the help of our dedicated volunteers. THANK YOU!

And be sure to come back next summer to check out how natural the landscaping at the lower parking lot looks thanks to your efforts!

High School and REI - Oh My! (Part 1)

The season is almost over, and the volunteer program is wrapping up. The groups are gone, tents come down, campgrounds are closing, and the paperwork is piling up (mainly due to me). We write reports, organize folders - all that fun administrative stuff. If I'm lucky (and productive) I manage to write a blog post. To some it may seem that we go out with a slight shuffling of paper, not even making a whimper.

Not at all!

We in the volunteer program love to go out with a bang, and what a bang it was when just this past week we had not one, but two large volunteer groups out to the park. Last week we were delighted to have both MEAD Alternative High School hailing from Spokane, Washington and REI Adventures from Kent, Washington join us in the park.

Mead Alternative has been a partner with the park for many years, making the long drive to Mount Rainier every season for a week long volunteer field trip. What they do varies from year to year, but this year the name of the game was reveg.

MEAD Alternative High School has been coming to the park for well over ten years now, and always brings a large crew with them. A group of thirty people, including teachers and adult chaperone's, joined Will Arnesen and his revegetation crew in helping to restore the lower Paradise parking lot. They stayed for an entire week, and put a much needed dent in the seemingly inexhaustible supply of plant from the greenhouse, all needing to go into the ground before snow renders the ground unreachable.

The weather for most of the week was horrible. Cold, foggy, and alternating between soggy and a light snow. Yet the students were enthusiastic, willing to work, and (though not always happy about the weather) happy to be helping. Nothing can quite exhaust a person and yet leave them pleased at the same time like working with their hands can.

MEAD High School’s connection to Mount Rainier runs deep. Year after year they come back, but more than that, judging from a picture sent to me, they never really leave. After returning home the group leader, Carol Allen, kindly provided me with this picture of a beautiful mural of Mount Rainier they have at school.

So thanks to MEAD Alternative High School for helping out. And tune in next time for pictures and info from our volunteer friends at REI Adventures. Till we meet again.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Volunteers urgently needed to help move Olympic NP Greenhouse

As we move into our fall season, volunteer opportunities at Mount Rainier are rapidly dwindling. Not so for some of our lower-elevation neighbors, however! I got a call from Maggie Tyler this morning, my volunteer coordinator counterpart at Olympic National Park, which, as you know is almost as extraordinary a park as Mount Rainier!

All kidding aside, Olympic (and Klondike Goldrush National Historical Park as well as the non-NPS sites in the Puget Sound region) are great places to contribute when our own trails are covered by snow. And the need for volunteers at these sites can be just as great as our own.

Here, then, is a great introductory volunteer opportunity at Olympic that meets a need as urgent as our own planting program at Paradise has been these last few weeks:

Olympic National Park will be hosting an open house on October 22 at our new facility at Robin Hill Park, located in Sequim, Washington. To get ready for this long awaited event we will be preparing our plants and supplies for the move over the next few weeks. We are looking for interested volunteers to move our greenhouse operation from our old location in Port Angeles to our new location in Robin Hill Park. We will be holding an orientation for all interested on October 7th at 10:00 A.M. at our current greenhouse in Port Angeles. Anyone interested in attending can contact me for directions either at the phone number below or at my email address, Volunteers should dress for any weather since they may be working out doors.

I know the 7th is short turn around time, but we will be very busy over the next few weeks. If folks can't join us on the 7th, they can still call me for additional times and dates they are available. If we have someone working in the greenhouse, they are welcome to join us.

Second Century Commission releases recommendations for the National Parks

This was actually released a week and a half ago, but I just came across it today. The report, created by a panel of experts including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, is engrossing reading for anyone who cares about the future of the National Park System. Here's the full press release, with a link to the report itself. Volunteers are specifically addressed on page 31:

People who participate in service to the national parks gain a sense of pride and ownership that lasts a lifetime. Discovering firsthand that they can be agents of positive change for their communities and for the environment, they become the informed and engaged citizens our country so urgently needs.
WASHINGTON — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today [September 24] commended the members of the National Parks Second Century Commission for their report on the future of the National Park System, which includes a wide range of recommendations for enhancing all aspects of our national parks.

“I applaud the commission for leaving no stone unturned in seeking ways to enhance our National Park System so that we might better honor our nation’s beauty, history and culture, conserve our treasured landscapes and their wildlife, and both inform and inspire the American people,” Salazar said. “The report provides a foundation upon which to build an even brighter future for our already outstanding national parks.”

The National Parks Conservation Association convened the commission, chaired by former U.S. Senators Howard Baker and J. Bennett Johnston, to produce a comprehensive report on the park system as it nears its 100th anniversary in 2016 and begins a second century.

The commission consists of nearly 30 national leaders, experts and thinkers drawn from a broad range of backgrounds, including scientists, historians, conservationists, academics, business leaders, policy experts, and retired National Park Service officials.

In its report, entitled “Advancing the National Park Idea,” the panel said that the National Park System is at a crossroads, facing challenges such as urgent environmental problems, a burgeoning population and critical needs in education. It called for a new vision recognizing the interrelationships between human beings and the natural world and the need for a sustainable relationship between people and the planet.

The report also included recommendations to strengthen the educational role of the National Park System, including new partnerships with the formal education community.

“National parks are no longer just far away places where people go to visit,” Salazar said. “We now have nearly 400 national parks, many of them in or near cities. We have a major role in supporting local communities and especially in fueling a passion our young people for our natural and historical heritage that will help them build a better future for our country.”

The commission’s report is available on line at

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Final tally: 223 volunteers on National Public Lands Day!

The numbers just keep pouring in! I finally have a complete tally of every event happening in the park on National Public Lands Day:

16 - Longmire Campground Restoration

8 - Bench Lake Trail
10 - Fourth Crossing Trail
151 - Paradise Planting

Glacier Basin
19 - Washington Trails Association
13 - Boy Scouts "Order of the Arrow"
6 - Other Boy Scouts

Grand total: 223 volunteers!! So far as I know, that's our biggest volunteer day ever. (Feel free to correct me if you know of anything bigger!)

Meanwhile, we've had MEAD Alternative High School [corrected] from Spokane, and Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School from Salem, Oregon, here planting this week, in spite of the cool, damp weather; and REI is coming in tomorrow. Saturday is another open planting day, so come on up and let's keep the momentum going!

Here's the report from Peter Dewell, WTA's volunteer crew leader at Glacier Basin:

"Well, we had some great National Park Rangers and crew to assist WTA in doing our work today. The loyal volunteers were Angela, Judy, Emma, Carol, Jim, Ed, Sue, Carl, Mike, Pete S, Elaine, Eric, Jim, Jane, Carla and Adam, along with great crew leaders, Micki, Lynn and Louise. Heck, with all this help and the National Park folks, who could lose. Well, we did not lose. First, there was the great work of removing stumps and roots just above a large rise in the trail - using rigging and muscle power, where Louise was involved. This area will need lots of work, but the hard work has been done. Next, a new switchback, with rock replacing duff and organic soil and proper insloping and outsloping, with protection of the turn - no trail cutters allowed here, with Lynn involved. Next up the trail was trail finishing and an upslope rock wall to hold the hill from slipping on the trail, with Micki involved. Finally, there were two rock projects uphill, with many rocks raising the trail to grade, in several places, plus a small rock retainer - to avoid (hopefully winter/spring runoff) and then a 20 foot long rock rock wall to support the new trail, just short of the current end, with lots of rock and mineral soil fill. These volunteers did great work and the National Park personnel provided great support and muscle power as well. Great job, well done. Thanks for coming out, and come out again, Pete Dewell."