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Contact: Kathy Kupper, 202-208-6843Release Date: April 28, 2017
VIPs Converge on National Parks
WASHINGTON – It’s easy to spot a VIP in a national park. In 2016, there were 339,662 VIPs, or Volunteers-In-Parks, greeting visitors, building trails, leading programs, performing research, or doing just about any task imaginable. Today, during National Volunteer Week, the National Park Service recognizes the important contributions of all of its volunteers by announcing the recipients of the annual George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service.
“We are extremely grateful for the dedication and impact of every volunteer,” said Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds. “Each volunteer performs different tasks but shares the same goal – to make a difference every day. Whether a volunteer builds a bridge on a trail or a bridge to the future during a children’s program, each selflessly gives of his or her time and talent to enrich the national park experience for others.”
The recipients will receive their awards during a joint National Park Service/National Park Foundation ceremony in Washington, DC on August 1. The Hartzog Awards are named for former National Park Service Director George B. Hartzog, Jr. and his wife Helen. Hartzog served as the head of the National Park Service from 1964 to 1972. In 1970, he established the Volunteers-In-Parks Program with 300 volunteers. Since then, more than four and a half million people have donated more than one and a half billion hours of service in national parks.
Anyone who is interested in becoming a National Park Service volunteer is encouraged to visit volunteer.gov or contact any site directly for more information. Any volunteer who contributes 101 hours of service in this 101st year of the National Park Service will earn a special certificate of appreciation.
Following are the recipients of the 2016 Hartzog Awards:
John L. Goar from Olympic National Park in Washington is the recipient of the Hartzog Award for Outstanding Individual Volunteer Service. Through hundreds of astronomy programs and full moon hikes, Goar has introduced more than 7,000 people to the importance of the night sky. Since 2010, he has devoted1,500 hours to showing visitors the park after dark. In addition, Goar served 3,000 hours as a campground host. He went above and beyond the normal duties of welcoming guests and overseeing the campground by also sorting and recycling thousands of pounds of glass, plastics, paper, and cardboard and removing invasive plants.
Aiden Schafer from Steamtown National Historic Site in Pennsylvania is the recipient of the Hartzog Award for Outstanding Youth Volunteer Service. Schafer brought railroading to life to park visitors. He developed and led tours and provided hands-on experiences during special events, including a “Railroad Worker” program where people operate a hand-powered pump car. His willingness to tackle any project and do it well makes him a leader in the park’s VIP program, even at his young age. He serves as the assistant coordinator for the park’s robust volunteer program, producing training materials and tracking hours for nearly 240 volunteers.
Mike Trotta from Fire Island National Seashore in New York is the recipient of the Hartzog Award for Outstanding Enduring Volunteer Service. Since becoming a park volunteer in 2003, Trotta has provided time, expertise, and skill to enhance almost every facet of park operations. As a carpenter, he built information desks, exhibit cases, aquarium supports, lifeguard stands, donation boxes, and shelves for park facilities. As a work leader, he guided crews of college and high school students, scouts, and other volunteers on projects including the restoration of a historic boathouse, replacement of split-rail fencing, and clean-up after Hurricane Sandy. As an electrician, he repaired park phone lines, electric fixtures, appliances, security systems, and vehicle equipment. As a maintenance worker, he cleared hiking trails, installed window blinds, and installed fencing to protect endangered nesting birds. As an educator, he explained the significance of the state’s only designated federal wilderness, and created a working model of the historic Beach Apparatus Drill that interprets the park’s maritime history.
Research-in-the-Park from Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas is the recipient of the Hartzog Award for Outstanding Youth Volunteer Service Group. In 2016, the Research-in-the-Park volunteers from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts contributed 1,133 hours of service. Dedicated students worked long hours to complete various research projects. They monitored water quality, evaluated geologic resources, identified algae specimens, photographed insects for the museum collection, served as trail ambassadors, and completed analysis of thermophilic bacteria unique to the hot springs. They amassed thousands of water-quality data points through the weekly collection of temperature, pH, specific conductance, and dissolved oxygen readings at 35 thermal water springs. The collection of this data allowed the park to create a baseline for these water quality parameters that had not previously existed.
The Mobile Skills Crew from the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin is the recipient of the Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Group Service. About 15 years ago, the Ice Age Trail Alliance developed a specialized Mobile Skills Crew to educate and empower volunteers to build, maintain, and steward the 1,000 mile-long trail. Specially trained work leaders from across the state travel to selected segments of the trail to manage local trail volunteers as they tackle large-scale projects. Last year, 841 volunteers from the Mobile Skills Crew spent 20,837 hours on the trail and helped open four new camping areas, build six bridges spanning 114 feet, craft 11 elevated boardwalks and puncheons totaling 1,323 feet, fashion 20 rock walls stretching 289 feet, shape more than two miles of treadway, create an additional five miles of trail for public use, and significantly improve an additional 21 miles of the trail by clearing trees, repairing structures, building erosion control features, and upgrading signage.
The Every Kid in a Park Volunteer Corps from Everglades National Park in Florida is the recipient of the Hartzog Award for Outstanding Park Volunteer Program. In 2016, Everglades National Park doubled the number of fourth-grade students visiting the park for educational programs by developing a new 25-member volunteer corp. The volunteers worked with the park’s education team to engage students at interactive stations focusing on key Everglades topics and outdoor exploration. In previous years, the park could accommodate 150 classes for education programs with another 150 wait-listed. In 2016, with the addition of the volunteer corps, the park offered 132 programs to 325 classes, reaching 6,807 students and 802 teachers and chaperones, a 110% increase over the previous year’s total of 3,241 students.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov, on Facebook www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice, Twitter www.twitter.com/natlparkservice, and YouTube www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice.