Friday, May 24, 2013

Washington's National Park Fund

As we enter the Memorial Day weekend, here's a lovely video put together by Washington's National Park Fund, whose fundraising efforts provide indispensable support for Mount Rainier National Park's volunteer program. Thank you to the Fund -- and to all of you who support Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Parks through them!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Longmire Campground Cleanup Event

Many of our Volunteers take advantage of the privilege of staying in the historic Longmire Campground while they're working on projects in the Park. Some come in motorhomes and campers. Others "rough it" in tents for a weekend or a week, depending on their assignments, but every winter brings down a new carpet of limbs, twigs and fir needles which need to be cleaned up before the campground officially opens.

For the last six years, members of have contributed their efforts in tidying up for the June opening, and various other groups have pitched in later in the year, creating piles which now need to be consolidated for removal by maintenance crews. In addition, there is last winter's shed of branches to gather and rake up, and the platform tents need to be erected. Lots of work for many hands!

We're asking you to help! The date is June 8. The time is 9 AM. There will be a break for bring-your-own lunch, fun and games after the event, and of course there's the opportunity to socialize with your friends. Bring your own gloves, and keep an eye on the weather report to determine appropriate clothing. Please join us. RSVP to or to Crow at

And just a reminder: we still need Volunteers to help clean up winter's deposits in the Longmire housing area on Tuesday, May 28. Event begins at 9 AM. RSVP to Crow if you'd like to participate.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rainier Volunteers Calendar

New volunteer calendar

As you may have noticed, the calendar embedded at the bottom of this blog no longer shows any information. You may have noticed other things that have gone awry and uncorrected -- outdated information and obsolete links, for example (though the majority of information is indeed accurate).

The reason for these inaccuracies is that the National Park Service recently converted its e-mail system to Google, and in the process, any existing Google applications (blogger and calendar, for example) that had been managed using an NPS e-mail address became inaccessible, and anything for which that e-mail address provided the only administrative access became un-editable. This is a valuable lesson: Make sure every application has at least two administrator accounts, ideally based on different sources! In retrospect, I should have given administrative priviledges to my personal e-mail address in addition to my government one. If I had, I would still have administrative access. Alas, I didn't, and I don't... so for now, the original Google calendar, and the layout and settings for this blog, are inaccessible.

We are working to fix this problem, and I am confident that we'll get it resolved as soon as we can figure out which tech guru to ask to flip which switch.

In the meantime, I have created a new volunteer program calendar, which I will post separately, and which will be populated with all of the many volunteer events coming up this summer. There's a lot to put on your calendar, so check us out and see what you want to be sure not to miss! Check back frequently, as well, because there are many events (citizen science, backcountry maintenance, volunteer picnics, and much more) which have not yet been given specific dates. These will be identified in later blog postings and volunteer newsletters... and shared on the new volunteer calendar. Better yet, if you have Google calendar yourself, subscribe to ours and keep up to date on a daily basis.

See you out on the trails!

- Kevin Bacher, Volunteer Program Manager

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Longmire Housing Area Urgently Needs You!

The winter snows brought down a lot of small limbs and other debris in the Longmire employee housing area which now needs to be collected and removed from the compound. Dale Harvard has put out an urgent call for volunteers to help with the clean-up. If you are interested in participating, we'll be gathering in the housing area at 10:30 AM on Tuesday May 28th. Bring gloves if you have them, and of course be prepared for any kind of weather. The project is expected to take no more than four hours. Please RSVP to Crow at by May 23.

National Trails Day 2013

A Washington Trails Association volunteer
rebuilds a trail near Comet Falls in 2012
Looking for something to do on National Trails Day, June 1st? Consider joining the Washington Trails Association at Mount Rainier! We have two options to choose from:
  • If you're just looking for a day project, meet up at the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center at 8:30 a.m. on June 1. The specific project location hasn't been set yet, but it'll be somewhere nearby. For details and to sign up, visit
  • If one day is simply not enough, consider filling one of the last two spaces available in WTA's "Volunteer Vacation," working on the Wonderland Trail near Ipsut Creek. This is a week-long project running from June 1 to June 8. You provide the sweat, WTA will provide the food and comraderie. There is an additional fee involved. For details and to sign up, visit
WTA will also be leading other trail projects on National Trails Day, perhaps closer to where you live, so check out their full list of options at Watch the same list for more projects at Mount Rainier, too -- every weekend, in fact, for the remainder of the summer!

Have fun, and we'll see you out there!

Monday, May 13, 2013

MRNPA Work Party, May 18

Per John Titland, May 18th's MRNPA work party will be on the Mine Trail. This trail begins approximately 1.25 miles from the entrance on the Carbon River Hike and Bike Trail. Now that the Carbon River Road is closed to vehicle traffic, this trail is more easily accessible to visitors and could use some improvement to handle the higher foot traffic. The Mine Trail is a .26 mile trail leading to an old mine once owned by Washington Mining and Milling Co. These days the mine is closed off, but the history remains. Trail work will include maintenance to sections of a 49-foot swamp bridge and widening and smoothing the trail tread.

MRNPA volunteers will meet at the Carbon River Entrance to Mount Rainier NP at about 8:30 AM.  Be ready to move out by 9:00. Park inside the gate, and please don't block the parking spaces available to the public.  Be prepared for a hike the 1.25 miles to the work site.  Bring your lunch and plenty of fluids to drink, work gloves and safety glasses and a full set of rain gear. During May, it is common to have rain or wet snow falling at Mount Rainier, so bring warm clothing too.

There are safety equipment requirements for all MRNPA trail work volunteers. Anyone using an aggressive tool (Pulaski, ax, shovel, etc.) or anyone working near someone using them is required to wear a hard hat and safety glasses. People working with or near a less aggressive tools are not required to wear a hard hat, but are encouraged to do so. Please bring your own hard hat if you have one. If you do not have a hard hat, MRNPA and the NPS have hard hats you may use for the day.

Wearing safety glasses is encouraged at all times. Not all safety glasses are comfortable for everyone and some will not fit over eye glasses. Because of cleanliness issues, some people don’t like wearing safety glasses that have been worn by other people.  For these reasons and others, please provide yourself with a pair of personal safety glasses for your own use.  A serviceable pair or safety glasses will cost about $10, and are available at hardware stores and other sources. Be advised that shatterproof eye glasses do not meet the requirement for safety glasses. Safety glasses all have side protection which eyeglasses do not.

If you plan to attend and have not yet contacted John Titland, please drop him a note at to indicate that you are coming and tell him how many volunteers you are bringing with you.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wanted: Longmire Volunteer Campground Manager

Boy Scout volunteers hard at work cleaning up
storm debris in the Longmire Volunteer Campground
With summer fast approaching, we are still searching for the right individual or couple to serve as our next Campground Manager at the Longmire Volunteer Campground. It's a unique position -- part campground host, part docent, part project crew leader, part volunteer coordinator -- and it requires a unique person to fill the role.

Specifically, we're looking for someone to live in our volunteer campground in their RV and coordinate the use of 31 tent sites, 2 group places, and several platform tents. You'll be taking reservations and assigning campsites, making sure guests are aware of campground regulations and in compliance with them, and making sure everyone feels welcomed and supported. You'll deal with challenges as they come up -- illegal campers, people who've lost their keys, loose dogs, and periodic reports of gunfire echoing up the canyon from Forest Service land outside the park. You'll maintain, clean, and supply a comfort station with three showers, and assign and retrieve keys from campers. You'll make sure that campsites are kept clean and inviting for the next guest.

The Longmire Campground is a historic site dating back to the 1930s, so its spaces are small, limiting RVs, including yours, to 24 feet in length. It contains 16 sites with hookups, including yours, which are used by park staff, concession employees, and full-time volunteers. The remaining sites -- the ones you'll be coordinating -- have no hookups.

The campground was closed to public use in the late 1960s, and was resurrected in 2007 for use by volunteers, education groups, and other working park partners. Its picnic tables are begged and borrowed, and its fire grates are 50 years old. With the help of grant money from Washington's National Park Fund and Glad®, we're planning to purchase and build or install new tables and grates this summer. You'll be helping to coordinate and lead these efforts, as well as other volunteer groups that help open the campground in the spring (cleaning up storm debris and setting up platform tents) and close it down in the fall.

Like any campground host position, it's a full-time, 40-hour-a-week job, with flexible hours, since you'll need to be on call whenever volunteers arrive or need assistance. Reimbursement is available for living expenses. The season begins approximately June 1 and runs through the end of September.

If you're interested, don't delay -- fill out an application today at! You can also contact me directly to express interest in the position, at 360-569-6567 or Kevin_Bacher [at]

Friday, May 10, 2013

Impacts of Sequestration on Mount Rainier's Volunteer Program

Mount Rainier National Park issued a press release yesterday detailing the effects of sequestration on park programs, staff, and services. With a 5% cut in this year's budget on top of $500,000 worth of additional cuts over the past few years, hard choices have to be made, and some things that we have been able to do in previous years are no longer possible.

Our priorities are public safety and access. As we meet these priorities with leaner resources, the volunteer program will play a critical role. Of course, volunteers are already a tremendous asset to our park. Last year 1,804 volunteers contributed 74,615 hours of volunteer time. A non-partisant research organization called Independent Sector publishes an annual estimate of the financial value of volunteer service, based on what it would cost to hire paid labor (with salary and benefits) to do comparable work. At this year's rate of $22.14 per hour, Mount Rainier's volunteers contribute $1.65 million worth of productivity. Looked at another way, a typical 3-month summer seasonal employee works for about 500 hours, so our volunteers are the equivalent of hiring 149 additional seasonal workers. Obviously, even without sequestration, we could never hope to accomplish as much, nor serve our public as well, without their help.

And our numbers keep growing. I've worked here for more than ten years now, and our volunteer numbers have been larger every year except 2008, and that was only because of the immense surge of volunteers who responded to winter storm damage during the previous summer. Volunteer hours are up almost 80% over the last decade, and volunteers are being used in creative ways to help with citizen science, backcountry maintenance, and almost every other part of park operations.

I've been asked many times over the past few months how sequestration will affect Mount Rainier's volunteer program. Here are three examples:
  1. Closed facilities mean fewer volunteers. The Ohanapecosh Visitor Center will not open this summer. The Cougar Rock Campground will have a shorter season. In both cases, volunteer jobs have been suspended or reduced along with those of paid employees. There will be no volunteer interpreters or Junior Ranger program assistants at Ohanapecosh, and Cougar Rock's campground hosts will come on duty later in the year.
  2. Supervisory capacity is reduced. One of the most significant barriers to volunteer program growth has always been "span of supervision." Volunteers, just like paid employees, must be trained, mentored, supervised, and provided with the supplies and equipment they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. Thus, there is a limit to the number of volunteers a supervisor can work with. Under sequestration, many vacant positions at Mount Rainier have gone unfilled, leaving remaining staff with more work to accomplish with fewer people, and in many cases, even less time to work with volunteers. We've found creative ways to overcome this problem over the years--for example, hiring interns through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) specifically to coordinate volunteers in the Citizen Science and Trails programs; and working in partnership with the Washington Trails Association to coordinate volunteer projects. And many supervisors are finding that if they assign their front-line employees to work with volunteers, they can get even more accomplished than they can without their help (and because those volunteers require training and supervision, the front-line employee's own job is in no danger of being "replaced" by them).
  3. Less money is available to support the volunteer program. Contrary to popular believe, volunteers are not "free" (though they provide an exceptional return on investment). There are costs associated with training, supervision, supplies, uniforms, fleet vehicles, housing, and sometimes a small per diem to cover living expenses for long-term volunteers. Volunteer program support comes from four places. My own salary, as the park's Volunteer and Outreach Program Manager, is supported by the park's "base" funding. We receive a small additional budget (usually $15-$18,000 annually) distributed out of a nationwide appropriation for the Park Service's volunteer programs. A significant amount of volunteer support comes from the individual programs in which volunteers work--for example, our Visitor Protection program may pay for a fleet vehicle to support our Emergency Roadside Assistance volunteers, or our division of Interpretation and Education may pay for housing and utilities on behalf of a volunteer working full-time in one of the park's visitor centers. All three of these funding sources are affected by sequestration and other budget cuts. With less money to support volunteers, our capacity to work with them is reduced.

    Fortunately, our fourth funding source, grants and donations, has so far made up a lot of the difference. A Youth Partnerships Program grant, for example, will support three SCA Community Crews made up of high school age youth from Seattle this summer, as well as youth internships in our education and restoration programs. An "America's Best Idea" grant from the National Park Foundation will expand that program further and support hiring almost a dozen youth from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to join the Community Crews. Donations from Washington's National Park Fund (WNPF) and "Keep America Beautiful," a program supported by Glad®, will fund much-needed upgrades to the volunteer campground at Longmire. And through an incredibly generous estate gift from the Raymond and Eleanor Wilson Charitable Trust, we're in the third year of a five-year, $50,000-per-year commitment by WNPF. This year's installment will pay for housing, reimbursements, uniforms, vehicles, and supplies for volunteer interpreters, educators, emergency roadside assistants, campground hosts, citizen scientists, restoration and trail crews, geologists, wilderness patrol, nordic patrol, and climbing rangers. We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of those who support these programs through their donations.
As with every park program, the volunteer program addresses the effects of sequestration by being as creative and efficient as we can with the resources we're given. We are glad to be a means for members of the public to work in partnership for the preservation of their national parks. This year, that support is more vital than ever.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reminder: Volunteer Brunch this Saturday!

In case you don't yet have it on your calendar, this is just a reminder that the annual Volunteer Brunch is coming up this Saturday, May 11, from 9 to 11 am at the newly remodeled Tacoma Mountaineers' Program Center. This event is for both returning volunteers and those who are interested in learning more about the park and its volunteer program. Get reacquainted with old friends after the long winter, and learn about all the new things going on up on The Mountain this year! Bring your favorite potluck dish to share. Beverages and place settings will be furnished by the hosts. The address is 2302 North 30th St. Tacoma WA 98403. See you there!

Didn't We Just Do That?

Yes, you did! But litter is an ongoing problem, and we want to have our gateway to the Mountain looking nice for our Fourth of July visitors. Mount Rainier's wonderful Volunteers have adopted the two-mile stretch of SR 706 which includes our Tahoma Woods property, and we'll be conducting another litter patrol as part of our partnership with the state Dept. of Transportation's Adopt-a-Highway program. They limit us to twelve participants, so if you're interested, sign up soon! Gloves, safety vests, bags and "long-armed grabbers" will be provided. Hard hats are optional, so if you want to wear one, bring your own.

Volunteers for this project MUST watch the DoT's five-minute training video featuring goofy (and much younger) Bill Nye the Science Guy. By the way, our Volunteers are featured on the front page of the Adopt-a-Highway site this month!

Contact Crow at to reserve your spot. We will be staging at Tahoma Woods in the Administration Building parking lot at 9 AM on Saturday, June 29.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wilderness Volunteers - Give Something Back

Wilderness Volunteers will be giving something back to Mount Rainier National Park over Sept. 8-14, 2013 as they pitch in to help with revegetation of a popular area near Sunrise. Volunteers will be tent- and car-camping at White River during the project. If you're interested in becoming involved in this frontcountry effort, you're invited to learn more at the Wilderness Volunteers website. Come and enjoy the views while helping with this much-needed restoration!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Recruiting for MeadoWatch

Love hiking and viewing Washington's alpine wildflowers? Interested in gaining an understanding of how scientists study the potential impacts of climate change on native plants? If so, MeadoWatch would love your help this summer!

The University of Washington Biology Department is currently recruiting approximately 50 volunteers to join MeadoWatch, a citizen science program which will monitor the phenology of wildflowers this upcoming summer. Your participation will help researchers understand how climate influences the flowers in mountain meadows at Mt. Rainier National Park.

As a volunteer, you will be asked to attend one orientation session and conduct at least one wildflower survey in Mt. Rainier National Park this summer. Wildflower surveys will occur between late June and late September (depending on the snow season), and will start and end at Reflection Lakes. Volunteers will stop at nine pre-determined stations along the trail to record the phenophases (e.g. budding, flowering, etc.) for ten different wildflower species. In return, you will get free entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park, and if you so desire, you may camp for 1-2 nights without charge at the Volunteer Campground at Longmire.

For more information, please visit the MeadoWatch website at

or contact Anna Wilson, MeadoWatch Coordinator at

Volunteer Newsletter - May 2013

Sumer is icumen in!

The snow is melting back and the wildflowers are just beginning to emerge in the lower forest zone. It's time to start thinking about our summer Volunteer activities in the Park! If you're a new volunteer or a seasoned veteran looking to expand your service to the Park, be sure you check out the opportunities listed on We are actively recruiting for a number of different positions including Backcountry Maintenance (painting) and Frontcountry Patrol - Paradise. Get your applications in soon!

Upcoming Events

The annual Volunteer Brunch returns to the Tacoma Mountaineers' Program Center this year. Join us on Saturday, May 11 from 9-11 AM. Attendees are asked to bring their favorite potluck dishes to share with the group. Beverages and place settings will be furnished by the hosts. The address is 2302 North 30th St. Tacoma WA 98403. Hope to see you there!

Break out the gloves and hardhats! The MRNPA will be working on several trails projects this year. Mark May 18, June 15 and August 10 on your calendars if you'd like to join the crew. The MRNPA will also be removing exotic plants on July 13 and will hold a revegetation project at Sunrise on September 7. If you are interested in participating in any or all of the above activities, please contact or visit MRNPA's website at

Meadow Rovers,
we have two training sessions coming up for you as well. The first is for incoming Rovers and will be held on Saturday, June 22. The training for experienced Rovers is on Sunday, June 23. Further details will be posted here and also in an upcoming Volunteer newsletter.

We will be partnering with Washington Trails Association again this year! This fine group will be leading projects every weekend starting in June. You can sign up for on their website at

Our Citizen Science programs will be resuming again in July. Watch for details on the Volunteer blog and in upcoming newsletters. We're still taking applicants for amphibian surveys. Butterfly surveys will also return this year, and we hope to be announcing a third citizen science project shortly as well.

What's Been Going On

ArrowCorps502: In recognition of their conservation project ArrowCorps502, the T'Kope Kwiskwis Lodge received the 2012 OA National Service Award, making the lodge the first in its section to receive the Award, and only the second lodge in Washington State. ArrowCorps volunteers built trails and restored campsites during August 2011. Congratulations to all who made ArrowCorps502 a success!

Nordic Patrol wrapped up a great season with 47 volunteers logging over 1,081 hours for the winter of 2012-2013.  Nordic Patrol is made up of volunteers supplied by the Washington Ski Touring Club (WSTC). Volunteers patrol the backcountry trails of the Park on weekends and holidays, and sometimes participate in Search and Rescue. If you are interested in volunteering for Nordic Patrol, visit

Adopt-a-Highway: In a partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation, teams of Park volunteers conducted two litter patrols along a two-mile stretch of SR 706. This "beat" encompasses the Tahoma Woods frontage as well as that of Columbia Crest School. Future patrols will be scheduled in late June and September. Keep your eye on the Volunteer blog for more information.

Jeanne Friend: On a more sombre note, we are sad to report the loss of longtime volunteer Jeanne Friend. Jeanne's contribution to the Park spanned 27 years of volunteer service. For most of her volunteer career, Jeanne's passion was with the revegetation program. She was actively involved with a Boy Scout troup in Everett, starting with restoration of the old Paradise Campground in 1983. Many of the still-healing patches in the meadows you see during the summer are restorative work done by her and her teams. She also served as a "Paradise Ranger Assistant" under Ranger John Madden, patrolling trails and helping in the ranger station full time from 1997 to 2000 and part-time in 2001 during the summer. In later years, she helped with the park library and curatorial collection. Jeanne received the prestigious Superintendent's Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service

Statistics, statistics!

Number of volunteers have increased from 1,728 to 1,804.
Total volunteer hours increased from 74,504 hours to 74,615 (worth $1.65 million!).
The new value of volunteer time by the hour is $22.14, a 35-cent increase from last year.