Volunteers = park sustainability.

When I started my SCA position in August 2010 as a Volunteer Coordinator, I had no idea how critical volunteers were to the operations of the park service. They care for trails, assist visitors, keep the park clean, and a whole host of other things. As my first year term comes to a close, I now know that volunteers are integral to the current and future sustainability of the parks.

We are fortunate at our park to have an amazing volunteer corps, and to also have a dedicated division just for partnerships and the volunteer program. We have the usual volunteers that come for one-off type projects, and we have a solid group of individuals that donate hundreds of hours each year to the park. With various on-going opportunities such as: Billy Goat Trail Stewards, Bike Patrol, Weed Warriors, Quartermasters, Canal Stewards, and Visitor Center Operations, we are able to engage people with diverse interests, while at the same time successfully care for the park and our visitors.

One of my main tasks as a volunteer coordinator is not only to recruit and properly place volunteers, but also to recognize all the hard work and time they donate to keep the park in top shape. We honor our volunteers in various ways throughout the year. Annually we host a volunteer appreciation dinner.

One of the other ways we recognize volunteers in the National Park Service is through the Hartzog Awards, dedicated to honoring those volunteers that go above and beyond. Today I will be heading down to the regional office in DC to meet with the Hartzog Award Committee to read the nominations and select the winners from all the parks in the National Capital Region. The ceremony will take place later this month at Ford’s Theatre (EXCITING!).

I feel quite honored to be part of this committee and to read about all the outstanding things volunteers are doing throughout the region. It’s neat to think that for every nomination we receive, there are easily 10 other volunteers out there doing an equally amazing job. I wish we could recognize them all! It’s incredibly inspiring to be surrounded by such enthusiasm for the park service, and it gives me hope that our parks will sustain for many years to come.


Photos above: Just a small example of the big impact volunteers make. Taken at Canal Pride Days in Georgetown, spring 2011