Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2012 Report on the Eleanor and Raymond Wilson Charitable Trust

Mount Rainier National Park's volunteer program receives its funding from a variety of sources. For the past two years, the largest single source of that funding has been Washington's National Park Fund, a non-profit partner with the national parks of Washington state, which accepts donations large and small on their behalf. Any time we receive money from such donors, it's proper to submit a periodic report on how that money is being invested. I always enjoy writing such reports, because frankly, volunteerism is an exceptionally good investment by any criteria. Here's this year's report on WNPF's contributions. Go to their website for more information about other great projects they're supporting, and to learn how you can help.

Washington’s National Park Fund
Eleanor and Raymond Wilson Charitable Trust

In 2010, Mount Rainier National Park received a donation of $350,000 from the estate of Eleanor and Raymond Wilson through Washington’s National Park Fund. $250,000 of that donation was targeted specifically to the park’s volunteer program, to be distributed at a rate of $50,000 per year for five years. Mount Rainier received $50,000 each for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

The Wilson Trust has, for two years, provided about three quarters of the general project funding to support Mount Rainier National Park’s volunteer program. Additional obligated National Park Service (ONPS) funding pays the salary of the Volunteer and Outreach Program Manager, a GS-11 full-time position, whose responsibilities are divided between the volunteer program and community outreach.


WNPF Wilson Trust


VIP Special Project Funding



The National Park Service sets aside funding for volunteer programs nationwide, and distributes that funding through its regional offices to parks proportional to the number of volunteers and volunteer hours that each park reports. The Pacific West Region bases that distribution on a three-year average. It also sets aside part of its funding to support special projects. Mount Rainier has been fortunate to receive special project funding on several occasions, including $2,000 to support “Keep Wildlife Wild” efforts and $8,000 to support a partnership with the Boy Scouts of America in 2011, and $5,000 to enhance our “Meadow Rover” program in 2012.

Funds that are not targeted to a specific project are distributed by the Volunteer Program Manager in ways intended to maximize their effectiveness according to two goals:

  1. Increasing the number, diversity, and quality of opportunities for members of the public to engage in the stewardship of their National Park; and
  2. Increasing the ability of park staff to accomplish their dual mission of protecting natural resources and serving the public.

In most cases, park programs are able to contribute resources of their own to supplement those provided by the volunteer program. For example, they may use base funding to pay for a volunteer’s housing, or they may pay for the tools and vehicles used by a volunteer out of their own accounts.  These additional contributions toward volunteer efforts are not captured here.

Volunteer program funds may be used for supplies, transportation, uniforms, or tools. Some long-term volunteers receive a small per diem for basic living expenses. Non-ONPS funds can be used to pay for volunteer housing.

Mount Rainier also traditionally invests a significant portion of its volunteer funding to support internship positions hired through organizations like the StudentConservation Association and Geologic Society of America. These positions are usually filled by college-age youth and are an investment in our future workforce; many of them go on to secure seasonal or permanent positions with the National Park Service. In addition, some of the interns we hire work within the volunteer program itself, with duties including volunteer recruitment, training, and supervision.

SCA Interns
Education intern (12 weeks, 2012 only); Citizen Science intern (12 weeks); Wilderness intern (12 weeks); Trails intern (16 weeks); VIP Coordinator (24 weeks)
Volunteer housing
Housing for long-term volunteers
Per Diem
Living expenses for long-term volunteers, such as campground hosts, mountaineering volunteers, and emergency roadside assistance volunteers
Vehicle rentals
Vehicles for Emergency Roadside Assistance, Roadside Cleanup, and Geoscience Teachers-in-Parks volunteers
Geologist-in-Parks interns
Five 12-week interpretation interns in 2011, two in 2012

Reimbursements for ten interns ranging from 4-10 weeks
Supplies and field gear
Waders, nets, notebooks, GPS, altimeters, and guide books for citizen science and geology volunteers; motor oil and tools for emergency roadside assistance volunteers; all-weather jackets for climbing volunteers
Uniform items
Uniform shirts, hats, vests, jackets, and nametags
Travel and Training

Advanced Volunteer Program Training attendance
Background checks
For volunteers working on networked computers
Award items

Incentive awards for Meadow Rover volunteers
Not including ONPS or targeted special project funding

The Wilson Trust funds arrived at a fortuitous time, when other sources of funding (especially ONPS funds) were increasingly in demand for other purposes and fewer and fewer dollars were left over to support volunteers. WNPF funds have allowed us to sustain a robust volunteer program during a time of fiscal challenge.

Number of volunteers
Volunteer hours

Key Accomplishments

  • In partnership with the Washington TrailsAssociation, Student Conservation Association, and Mount Rainier National ParkAssociates, volunteers helped rebuild and reopen the Glacier Basin Trail in 2011, large portions of which were obliterated by floods in November 2006. In 2012, they turned to other projects throughout the park, 679 of them turning in 13,136 hours of service.
  • One hundred forty “Meadow Rovers” spent 7,595 hours patrolling meadows above Paradise and Sunrise, educating tens of thousands about the importance of staying on trails in those fragile subalpine environments. Twenty-one Wilderness Patrol volunteers turned in another 5,752 hours patrolling trails throughout the park.
  • Two Emergency Roadside Assistance volunteers spent 1,323 hours patrolling the roads around Paradise, assisting dozens of stranded motorists and helping with numerous accidents and incidents. Five of Mount Rainier’s 15-person team of climbing rangers are now volunteers. Volunteers also contributed more than 2,300 hours in Search and Rescue events in 2012.
  • Citizen Scientists now systematically survey amphibians, butterflies, and other wildlife species, monitoring trends influenced by climate change and other factors. 64 volunteers turned in 1,159 hours of service. Another 18 volunteers turned in 1,801 hours of time surveying glaciers and streambeds.
  • Thirty-two Volunteers turned in 7,718 hours of service as interpretive naturalists in 2012, the equivalent of more than 15 paid seasonal employees for our visitor centers and school education programs that we would not have been able to afford.
  • We worked with 38 active community groups in 2012, including youth from the Student Conservation Association (5,112 hours), Central Washington Field School (4,000 hours), the Boy Scouts of America (1,989 hours), The Evergreen State College (1,600 hours), MEAD Alternative High School (483 hours), and the Tokyo-based Japan Volunteers-in-Parks Association (880 hours). Members of the Washington Trails Association turned in 5,339 hours; the Mount Rainier National Park Associates accumulated 977; and the Washington SkiTouring Club, 643.
  • Volunteers worked under at least 84 different position descriptions in 2012.

The Role of Washington’s National Park Fund and the Wilson Trust
Raymond and Eleanor Wilson Charitable Trust donations have covered 74% of the general operating funds of Mount Rainier National Park’s volunteer program for the past two years, not counting special project funding and obligated National Park Service funds. These funds pay for interns who help us to manage our volunteer program and extend our capacity to work with members of our community, especially in the areas of trail maintenance, interpretation, citizen science, and the “Meadow Rover” program. They pay for vehicles and supplies that allow us to offer emergency roadside assistance, and emergency response on the upper slopes of Mount Rainier. They pay for housing and per diem that allows volunteers to participate not just for a day or two at a time, but on extended assignments lasting weeks or months.

Most importantly, we are meeting our program’s goals. We are engaging more and more people in more and more projects at Mount Rainier, working with them as partners and advocates in the stewardship of their National Park. We are protecting our resources and serving our visitors in ways we couldn’t hope to without the help of volunteers. This year’s 74,615 volunteer hours are the equivalent efforts of more than 149 seasonal employees and $1.6 million in salaries and benefits. This is a tremendous return on our investment.

The numbers speak for themselves, but there is no better way to assess the positive influence of the Wilson Charitable Trust than to visit a volunteer group in action: rebuilding a washed-out trail with the Washington Trails Association or Student Conservation Association at Comet Falls, planting native plants with a school group at Sunrise, or surveying frogs and salamanders in a wilderness lake with a citizen science team. We are making connections. We are investing in the future of our Park and our community. We are making a difference.

Photographs from the 2012 season may be seen on our website at

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