Mount Rainier volunteer program sees drop in hours worked in 2013

Staff writerDecember 8, 2013 

A member of the Student Conservation Association’s Community Crew works on the Trail of the Shadows at Longmire in Mount Rainier National Park in July.

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK

While the number of volunteers who worked at Mount Rainier National Park this year remained steady, the number of hours worked declined dramatically.

In his annual report, volunteer coordinator Kevin Bacher said the number of volunteers this year was 1,784 people, down 1.1 percent from the 1,804 count in 2012.

Where the decline was noticeable was in the hours worked, Bacher said in his report. This year, volunteers worked 62,736 hours. That is down 15.9 percent from the 74,615 hours worked in 2012.

“A quick look at the numbers reveals that most of the changes are reflective of fewer full-time volunteer and intern positions,” Bacher said. “We had fewer full-time volunteers in the Paradise visitor center and climber information center; fewer emergency roadside assistance volunteers; fewer historic architecture positions and so forth.”

The park also lost a few thousand hours of volunteer time at the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center alone because it was shut down for the season because of budget constraints.

“The silver lining is that, clearly, individual interest in volunteering has not declined. While we’ve had fewer full-time volunteers parkwide, our number of itinerant volunteers has remained roughly the same, in spite of the shrinkage of some programs,” he said.

The value of those volunteer hours is estimated at almost $1.39 million, based on the estimated value of volunteer time in 2012 at $22.14 per hour nationally.

The report also noted the end of the program with the Japan Volunteers-in-Parks Association. In 20 years of work at the park, those volunteers donated 23,040 hours of service.

“Their contributions to Mount Rainier National Park will benefit us long into the future, and we wish them well with their new volunteer efforts closer to home in Japan,” Bacher said.

CELEBRATE THE NEW YEAR

Washington State Parks is encouraging people to get outdoors to celebrate the new year. The park system has again planned a series of First Day Hikes to take place at parks across the state on Jan. 1.

There are hikes planned at parks including Lake Sylvia, Twanoh, Nolte and Millersylvania.

The times, distance and difficulty of each hike varies from park to park. For details, go to parks.wa.gov/ events.

October visits

Mount Rainier

October 2013: 38,478

October 2012: 59,049

Difference: -34.84 percent

Year-to-date 2013: 1,071,602

Year-to-date 2012: 1,013,869

Difference: 5.7 percent

How do you explain a drop of more than one-third in recreational visits from a year ago? It wasn’t the weather, it wasn’t a lack of interest. Oh yeah, it was a federal government shutdown for 16 days. Still, the park managed to top the 1 million mark for the year. Interestingly, there were more visitors per day in October, 2,565, than in October 2012 when the average was 1,904.

Olympic

October 2013: 134,726

October 2012: 165,809

Difference: -18.75 percent

Year-to-date 2013: 2,891,020

Year-to-date 2012: 2,629,063

Difference: 9.96 percent

Olympic fared better than Mount Rainier did during the shutdown. Despite the drop-off in October, the park is still well head of the count in 2012 for the year.

National Park Service

October 2013: 15,112,276

October 2012: 22,159,931

Difference: -31.8 percent

Year-to-date 2013: 239,979,073

Year-to-date 2012: 255,516,913

Difference: -6.08 percent

Source: National Park Service

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