More than 1,800 people volunteered almost 75,000 hours of work at Mount Rainier National Park this year. That effort was worth an estimated $1.6 million to the park.
That is the assessment from Kevin Bacher, the park’s volunteer and outreach coordinator.
The number of volunteers increased from 1,728 to 1,804 this year, and the hours worked increased from 74,504 hours to 74,615, Bacher reported.
Volunteers were involved in operations throughout the park, including archeological efforts, campground maintenance, assisting park scientists, providing emergency roadside assistance, patroling alpine meadows, working on trails and assisting with search and rescues.
Along with individuals, the volunteer program benefitted from a number of partnerships with other organizations. Among the 38 community groups working with the park were the Student Conservation Association, Washington Trails Association, Mount Rainier National Park Associates, The Evergreen State College and Boy Scouts.
Bacher said other volunteers and park managers deserve credit for helping the numbers rise.
“As the word gets out about the opportunities that are here, more and more people come up and take part in it,” he said. “The greatest recruiter of volunteers here at the park is other volunteers. They meet other volunteers, either out on the trail or in the community. We also have managers here who have gotten very creative about ways to include volunteers in the operation of the park.”
The Washington’s National Park Fund also deserves a thanks, Bacher said. For the last two years, the fund has contributed $50,000, about two-thirds of the funds needed to run the volunteer program.
“We leverage that $50,000 into a program that provides $1.6 million worth of work for the park,” Bacher said.
That’s equal to the amount of time 150 seasonal employees would work during a typical summer.
“There’s no way we could afford to pay for that many people,” Bacher said. “That (volunteer effort) is so important in these times when we are being asked to do more with less.”
SNOWPLAY AREA OPENING
The snowplay area at Paradise is scheduled to open Dec. 15, assuming there is enough snow on the ground.
“We look for at least 5 feet of snow before we can safely open the area,” said Chuck Young, chief ranger at Mount Rainier.
As of Nov. 26, there was about 35 inches of snow on the ground at Paradise.
“The last storm was warmer than usual, so it didn’t add a lot of snow,” Young said.
The snowpack had reached 41 inches deep on Nov. 22, but rain and warmer temperatures reduced that to current levels.
Park visitors are required to have tire chains when driving into the park during the winter.
TRACKING ELWHA SEDIMENT
It will be some time before the data have been fully analyzed, but initial observations show the Elwha River dam removal project is going according to plan. Observations made during surveys done late last month show the river is keeping pace with the removal work and effectively eroding sediment downstream and out of the former Lake Mills area.
The project’s sediment team worked to survey the river and former reservoirs to determine how sediment is responding to the removal work.
The team began its survey where the river once entered Lake Mills, hiking the length of the former reservoir to Glines Canyon Dam. As they hiked, they measured the surface elevation of the river and collected sediment samples to determine the size of sediment moving downstream and out of the reservoir.
The team also floated down the river in rafts outfitted with specialized equipment to study channel topography and sediment redistribution along the lower stretch of the river. The equipment was used to collect data on the location and elevation of sediment in the river, the velocity and depth of the river and the size and distribution of sediment along the river bottom.
Finally, the team traversed the lakebed of former Lake Aldwell to survey the newly exposed landscape in order to better map the river channel.Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure