Friday, January 6, 2012

Park to reopen with major assistance of volunteers

With our full-time staff still grieving the loss of our friend and colleague Margaret Anderson, we will lean heavily on both volunteers and NPS employees detailed temporarily from other national parks. You'll see a lot of volunteer uniforms at the Jackson Visitor Center and out on the trails. Please thank them for their service if you encounter them, and thank you for your service if you're one of them.

Events have moved rapidly this week, though it hasn't always seemed so from the outside. It's taken a while to nail down the details of our reopening plan, and for the Memorial Service next Tuesday, simply because there are an extraordinary number of details to resolve. For the reopening, at least, we're ready, and for the Memorial, we will be soon. Here's a complete summary of what to expect tomorrow; I'll post details about the Memorial next:

The park will reopen officially at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday January 7.

Visitor Services
All services that visitors could normally expect in the park, with the exception of the sledding hill (AKA "snow play"), will be up and running. The Longmire Museum and Jackson Visitor Center will have normal hours of operation, the National Park Inn will reopen, the gift shop and snack bar at the visitor center will be operational, and public snowshoe walks will go out as usual. The sledding hill will remain closed because we don't have enough staff back on duty to groom it and keep it safe.

Memorial Sites
The makeshift memorial of flowers and candles at the Nisqually Entrance will remain, and people who wish to do so may drop tokens of sympathy off there. However, to prevent a bottleneck at the entrance station, we will encourage visitors to bring items further into the park, to either the porch of the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) at Longmire (the large historic "Administration Building" behind the flagpole, across the road from the Longmire Museum); or to the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise. All three locations, as well as the National Park Inn, will also have a poster board with photos and text about Margaret.

News Media
Local media are expected (and welcome) at our reopening. We will have Public Information Officers (PIOs) at the park entrance, at Longmire, and at Paradise. Employees and volunteers who are contacted by reporters are welcome to speak to them if they feel comfortable doing so, or to politely decline and refer the reporters to one of our PIOs if they do not, or if they get any questions they can't answer.

Volunteers who would be coming up to the park to work anyway are encouraged to continue doing so. Because the coordinator of our Nordic Patrol is currently unavailable, that program is temporarily suspended, at least officially, for this weekend; however, "snow rovers" are welcome to don their volunteer uniforms and come up to help. Please check in at the Longmire Museum at 8:45 a.m. for a special briefing on what to expect and how to answer questions about Margaret.

Thank you all, and have a safe and happy day on The Mountain.

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