Monday, August 1, 2011

Tools in the ground: ArrowCorps 502 begins!

Two years after the idea was first proposed to us here at Mount Rainier National Park by advisors of the T'kope Kwiskwis Lodge of the Boy Scouts of America, "ArrowCorps 502" is officially off and running!

The program takes its name from the "Order of the Arrow," the Boy Scouts' leadership corps who have planned and coordinated the project from its inception; from a similar project called ArrowCorps5 that occurred on several National Forest sites back in 2008; and from the Seattle-based group's Lodge number, 502.

As described in a press release last week, nearly a hundred Boy Scouts from all over the country have converged on Camp Sheppard, just north of Mount Rainier National Park, in preparation for three intensive days of volunteering. As I write this, crews are preparing to begin work tomorrow at Government Meadows, Silver Creek, and Crystal Mountain in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and at Crystal Lake and Ipsut Creek in Mount Rainier National Park.

I had the opportunity last evening to join the group at Camp Sheppard for their official opening ceremony. Already the boys had spent the day planning, gathering and learning to use tools, conducting safety briefings, and learning first aid and Leave No Trace techniques. When Acting Superintendent Randy King, Seasonal Volunteer Coordinator Patti Poulin, and I arrived, they were preparing for dinner. And while those camped at Ipsut Creek this week will be eating camp rations, back at base camp the fare was more generous: salmon and wild rice with corn on the cob and salad, tasty enough to be worth the drive all the way from our offices on the south side of the Mountain.

After dinner, we adjourned to the amphitheater for speeches and "shows." Arrow Corps member Ian Bellows emceed the event, beginning with the lowering of the flag for the evening, welcomes by Randy King and myself, and the presentation of a letter of support from Congressman Dave Reichert, who was unable to attend in person due to pressing business in the other Washington. Congressman Reichert also sent a flag that had been raised over the U.S. Capitol in honor of ArrowCorps, and which will be flown throughout this week at Camp Sheppard. After the speeches, the ArrowCorps "Show Team" presented several short videos, introducing us to Mount Rainier National Park and the history of Boy Scout volunteer projects in the National Parks, and summarizing the work that had been done up to that point. A final video, called "Why You? Why Now?" left us all with a challenge to go out and make a difference.

Congressman Dave Reichert sent a
special welcome and a flag flown over
the U.S. Capitol.
A special camera and video crew will be traveling around the park over the next few days to document the work in the field, and Friday evening the Corps will re-gather at Camp Sheppard for a celebration of the week's work, including another feast and another presentation of images and video gathered along the trail.

We left for home at 9:00, tired but excited by the spirit and enthusiasm we'd seen, and impressed by the level of organization. Most of the work on ArrowCorps 502 has been done by youth members of the Order of the Arrow, led by Evan Skandalis, Matt Allyn, and Ian Bellows. They and their crews represent the next generation of stewards of our national parks and other public lands--and by all indications, those resources are in good hands.

Patti, Randy, and I will be visiting crews in the field throughout this week, and hope to post more images and status reports on this blog along the way, so come back for updates. You can also check out the ArrowCorps website at

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