National Park Service Honors Outstanding Volunteers
WASHINGTON, DC –More than 175,000 people donated time and talent to the National Park Service last year, performing virtually any task imaginable. On April 30, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation recognized exceptional volunteers in five categories with the 2008 George B. Hartzog, Jr. Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service.
“Volunteers of all ages and abilities make a significant contribution to the work of our agency,” said Acting National Park Service Director Dan Wenk. “Today we acknowledge the dedication and hard work of a young man who shares his love of history with visitors, a couple that helps preserve a rare ecosystem, a woman who staged a large special event, a group that maintains a national scenic trail, and a volunteer program that participates in every aspect of a park’s operation. They exemplify the commitment and enthusiasm of volunteers throughout the system.”
The awards are named for the late George B. Hartzog, Jr., the seventh director of the National Park Service who served from 1964 to 1972. Hartzog created the National Park Service Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program in 1970. In retirement, he and his wife established a fund to support the program and honor volunteer efforts.
Hartzog’s widow, Helen, was a special guest at the awards ceremony. She expressed heartfelt gratitude to the volunteers and the volunteer program that continues to grow. Last year, volunteers contributed 5.5 million hours of service valued at $107 million.
Following are the award recipients:
Outstanding Volunteer Service by an Individual: Sally Maertens, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado
Sally Maertens, who has volunteered at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument for 13 years, spearheaded a region-wide “No Child Left Inside” weekend that attracted record crowds to the park. She coordinated logistics and funding with 22 partner organizations for an exhibition that showcased outdoor opportunities for youth and families. A highlight of the weekend was a presentation from Richard Louv, the world-renowned author of Last Child in the Woods.
Outstanding Volunteer Service by a Group: IceAge Park & Trail Foundation, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Wisconsin
The Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation is the National Park Service’s primary partner in building, maintaining, protecting, and promoting the Ice Age National Scenic Trail – a 1,200-mile-long footpath that traverses the route of the last glacial advance. Through its network of 21 local trail clubs, the foundation fielded 1,602 volunteers who provided nearly 42,300 hours of service in 2008. Last year the group oversaw the construction of 8.3 miles of new trail, the permanent protection of 4.4 miles of existing trail, maintenance projects on hundreds of miles of trail, dozens of outreach and awareness events, and the formation and/or strengthening of partnerships.
Outstanding Service by a Park VIP Program: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area VIP Program, Pennsylvania and New Jersey
Last year 823 volunteers contributed greatly to the overall operations and mission of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area by donating 113,678 hours of service. Regular and episodic volunteers presented interpretive programs, gave living history demonstrations, staffed a visitor center, maintained more than 200 miles of trails, patrolled bike paths, responded to medical incidents and emergency calls, assisted with high angle rescues, cleared debris from the river and its banks, and did preservation work on historic buildings, structures, and grounds.
Outstanding Service by a Youth Volunteer: Adam Sackowitz, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, New York
Adam Sackowitz, 17, spent about 400 hours last year at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site providing orientation and information to visitors, cataloging cultural artifacts, and cleaning facilities. He participated in planning events for the Theodore Roosevelt Sesquicentennial and conceived a popular commemorative passport stamp cancellation. Sackowitz gave lectures at a Civil War Roundtable and at his high school about his National Park Service experiences. He aspires to work for the agency and has spent vacation time traveling to and volunteering at other parks.
Enduring Outstanding Volunteer Service: Rick and Jean Seavey, Everglades National Park, Florida
Since 1984 Rick and Jean Seavey have contributed more than 34,000 hours managing in-depth research and habitat restoration projects. Each endeavor has been accomplished with meticulous attention to detail and process from start to finish. Their work included research, writing grant proposals, building partnerships, and recruiting and supervising volunteers and assistants. They performed a 10-year herbarium of the park, collecting and processing more than 2,000 plants and identifying 800 species of trees, including some that were not thought to grow anywhere in the United States. They led a three-year effort to eradicate 200,000 invasive trees from an area of cultural and natural significance. They directed a seven-year project to remove four problematic invasive species from Cape Sable, a remote sandy beach and coastal wetland ecosystem used by endangered turtles and crocodiles. For that project, they wrote a successful $1.4 million grant request that provided the staff and equipment needed to remove every invasive plant species along 11.4 miles of the cape. In addition, they have organized surveys of lichens, endangered sea turtles, and pre and post fire botanical life.
“Both the individual volunteer and the park gain so much from this program. I wonder if we could go back to 1970 if even George Hartzog could envision how much the volunteer program would grow and mushroom,” said honoree Rick Seavey. “I couldn’t imagine what the parks would be like without his foresight and the ensuing contributions of so many volunteers.”