Last updated: August 30, 2016
They come in all sizes and colors, and they come from all around the country. Some are still in High School, and some are long retired. Volunteers - at the Grand Canyon and the other parks - are crucial now to the success of the National Park system. You'll see them in their green shirts with the NPS patch and name badge, smiling and working to help you have a good experience. Last year, in 2015, there were 1504 volunteers that spent time here at Grand Canyon.
Count me in the 'retired' category. As the writer of this blog, I usually go around here in disguise, but yesterday I dressed up to play Volunteer Ranger. Green shirt, tan slacks and hat with the logo, backpack with extra water, and the Pocket South Rim Map. Yeah, the map is crucial. "Where are we, Ranger?"
I had a good time despite my affliction: a tendency toward benevolent anarchy (Haven't worn a uniform since Boy Scouts). The people that needed direction were friendly. The people that were playing with the squirrel looked blankly at my efforts to explain what dangerous behavior that was. And I tried, as I do on every walk, not to look at the dozens of snapshot-takers poised on the very edge of the cliff. No thanks, just don't want to actually see it happen. There was a great joy, though, the kind a teacher knows, in explaining something that you are enthusiastic about and having the recipients get it.
"I'm absolutely passionate about the canyon." Our friend Nettie Klingler is a Volunteer here in Interpretation, who loves the job for both its sense of community - and its peace and quiet! The chance to do programs for appreciative people, research the historic figures she portrays, and not least, the opportunity to hike at will in a spectacular place all add up. "I'll stay as long as they have me!"
During the summer season, volunteers are everywhere. You might not see them, though, off to the side chipping brush with a chain saw, driving an ambulance, or in the Clinic. They do trail maintenance or housing rehab. Wildlife monitoring. Invasive species removal. Search and rescue, fire protection, archaeological and geological research. Or work in the Science Building, the Museum, or the Research Library. You'll interact with the volunteers that staff desks and lead guided walks and programs. Younger volunteers learn and grow as students and leaders and are inspired to care for the national parks. I watched this happen, and saw them thanking the Interpretation staff for the opportunity.
The effort to maintain the integrity of the entire resource, and to make it available and interesting to visitors without compromising it, goes on all the time.Those volunteers last year put in 86,577 hours and were worth over 2 million dollars to this park alone! And I'm not even adding in the contributions made by paid interns. In a world where the National Parks function with fewer employees than they had in 2002, well, don't be afraid to thank a volunteer, whether you need help or not. The Grand Canyon would not be so enjoyable and functional without them. Got some time? Maybe YOU want to join in –it's special here. https://www.nps.gov/grca/getinvolved/volunteer.htm
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This blog is meant to encourage awareness and thoughtfulness about the Grand Canyon, one of our most precious resources.
It is not merely a story of what happens or has happened here, not a cookbook for what you should make of it yourself, but more an example of the many-faceted inspiration the Canyon nurtures in an artist, perhaps in you. Indeed, inspiration may be the Canyon's greatest resource.
These words are sincere, my own take on this world, deliberately non-academic and directed toward users of social media. In no way does it represent the policies or opinions of the National Park Service, although it is done under the auspices of that entity, but is offered in gratitude, with my respect and admiration for these soldiers of conservation. George H. Jacobi 2016