Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service Volunteers-in-Parks program
The VIP program was established under Director George Hartzog 50 years ago, long after the first volunteers began service, as a formal opportunity for the public to share their talents, and precious time with the agency in support of our mission. 50 years later, the program is stronger than ever! This year we celebrate the outstanding contributions of volunteers in fiscal year 2019 through our annual George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service, an annual recognition of volunteer excellence in NPS, and look forward to the opportunities the next 50 years will bring.
Check out a video celebration of this year’s recipients via our partners at the National Park Foundation.
This award celebrates outstanding volunteer service performed by an individual in fiscal year 2019.
Mike Schnellinger, Cuyahoga Valley National ParkIn three years, Mike Schnellinger has contributed over 700 hours of volunteer service to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. What cannot be measured is the wealth of knowledge and abundance of passion he has brought with him to the park through this service. Since 2017, after retiring from the education and information sector, Mike has been committed to serving the park. Mike started volunteering with the Trailblazers, a volunteer group that engages with visitors on the trails to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable visit. Now, Mike serves as a lead volunteer for that program. In 2018, Mike was influential in providing guidance and expertise to park staff in launching the first-ever Cuyahoga Valley Volunteer River Patrol, a program aimed at supporting visitors using the river. Mike's work improved the preventative search and rescue efforts in the park, increased the park's ability to meet the needs of water trail partners, and was key to achieving the designation of the water trail. Since then, Mike's paddling knowledge and skill, as well as his organization and willingness to take on a leadership role, have helped to expand the River Patrol program. Mike's dedication and enthusiasm have left indelible marks on the volunteer program in Cuyahoga Valley and surely will continue to inspire others to do the same.
This award celebrates outstanding service performed by a volunteer under 18 years of age, in fiscal year 2019.
Virginia Ward, Blue Ridge Parkway
Virginia Ward is a 15-year-old young woman from Fairview, North Carolina, who has a deep love and respect for the wild places tucked amongst the craggy rock outcroppings of America's Favorite Drive. Ward has been volunteering at Blue Ridge Parkway for 3 years where she assists the park's botanist, Chris Ulrey, monitor critically imperiled plant communities that are relics of the last ice age. Braving the elements, carrying heavy equipment over rough terrain, and taking copious notes while perching on exposed cliffs, are just a walk in the park for Ward, who hopes to one day become a botanist with the National Park Service. Ward's assistance has been a welcome gift to the rare plant program at the Parkway, making it possible for the Parkway's one botanist to complete monitoring work more safely and efficiently.
This award celebrates the fiscal year 2019 accomplishments of an outstanding organized group of volunteers.
Channel Islands Native Plant Garden Volunteers, Channel Islands National ParkThe Channel Islands Native Plant Garden Volunteers are an exceptional group of volunteers. These dedicated VIPs maintain the native plant and demonstration gardens in the park, as well as the mainland native plant nursery. Some of these volunteers also work on the islands maintaining nurseries for native plant propagation. In fiscal year 19 a total of 15 volunteers in this group contributed over 1380 hours working in the garden and the mainland nursery. Combined, these volunteers have over 73 years of volunteer service in the garden. These volunteers manage the native plant garden on their own and have made it truly a destination spot for gardeners in Southern California. Their work allows visitors to feel like they are getting an island experience without stepping foot on one of the five remote islands.
Youth Group Award
This award celebrates the outstanding 2019 contributions of an organized group of volunteers under 18 years of age.
City to Summit, Klondike Goldrush National Historical Park-SeattleThe City to Summit Program (C2S), works with Klondike Goldrush National Historical Park-Seattle to create personalized volunteer experiences for youth of color, youth with disabilities, LGBTQ+ youth, and youth that may be experiencing systemic oppressive forces. Exceptional accomplishments in 2019 include the creation of a volunteer program serving underrepresented youth and their families, increased volunteer engagement at local national parks aligning with youth’s interests, and developing meaningful connections through creating welcoming and inclusive National Park experiences. C2S collaborates with youth and their families along with community partners, including the Washington Trails Association and YMCA Bold & Gold, to design inclusive opportunities that build volunteer capacity and develop a sense of belonging in National Parks. A major accomplishment of these efforts is the Program’s development of six personalized volunteer trips to Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Park for the youth program participants.
This award celebrates an outstanding 2019 volunteer program.
Vicksburg National Military Park VIP ProgramDuring Fiscal Year 2019, volunteers assisted the park team with major activities including two nationwide work days (Park Day and National Public Lands Day), a 5K race and bike race, a Junior Ranger Camp for young visitors, and numerous cleanups of the Vicksburg National Cemetery – a site which preserves and honors the memory of 17,000 Union Civil War veterans. Throughout summer 2019, the Living History team illustrated artillery firings, musket firings, and civilian encampments to give our visitors a better understanding of soldiers’ and civilians’ experiences. Additionally, our Park WATCH and Interpretation volunteers work routinely to help visitors explore the park safely. The efforts of the park’s treasured volunteers help the Vicksburg National Military Park preserve and interpret the important resources and stories the park preserves, associated with the Civil War siege and defense of Vicksburg, and the history of Vicksburg from Reconstruction through the present.
Enduring Service Award
This "lifetime achievement" volunteer award celebrates the contributions of an individual volunteer over many years of service.