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This week Mount Rainier National Park staff will celebrate with present and past members of the Japanese Volunteers-in-Parks Association (J-VIPA) and thank them for the contributions they have made to the park during the past 20 years. Each summer, students, individuals and staff from Japan have come to Mount Rainier to volunteer their time. The completed projects have been numerous, including the ADA accessible boardwalk at Kautz Creek; repairing and rehabilitating campsites throughout the park; trail repair on the Westside Road; building the ADA trail near the Jackson Visitor Center; and revegetation projects in many areas. Staying with host families during their visits has resulted in lifetime friendships and memories. Some park and local families have hosted J-VIPA volunteers the entire 20 years. This year will be the final season the group will come to "the Mountain" for this volunteer program.
The J-VIPA program began as an International Volunteer Experience in 1993 coordinated by Mr. Hiro Yamaguchi with Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. Inquiries were sent to several national parks about interest in utilizing a volunteer group from Japan.Mount Rainier National Park responded favorably. As a result, in 1994 the first group of volunteers arrived at Mount Rainier – the beginning of a long-standing partnership. During the past 20 seasons, over 380 individuals have contributed 22,656 hours of service to the park – equivalent to $501,600+ dollars. J-VIPA is the longest international volunteer group in the National Park Service. They have also sent volunteers to other national park areas such as Hawaii Volcanoes, Glacier, and Manzanar and done volunteer project in their own country as well.
Mount Rainier Superintendent Randy King said, "We are sincerely grateful to all of the participants of the J-VIPA program for their hard work and dedication in helping us repair and improve the resources of Mount Rainier National Park. The work they have done will benefit the park for many years to come, and the friendships that have been formed through this program will last a lifetime."