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Tourism Cares

Kristen
by Kristen Gilbert

September 26, 2016

3 minute read

Guest Post by: Allison Flint-Lenzi, Collette Cares volunteer

This was my second Tourism Cares event, and I was honored to join with about 100 tourism professionals including seven other Collette employees for a gorgeous two days at Mt. Rainier National Park! We worked on projects to help preserve the park landscape. Our group in particular was assigned to the Nisqually Vista Trail, to help shore up the trail edges to help direct water flow and prevent erosion of the paved path.  The official name of what we built is “checks,” but really it was digging deep holes about 10 feet apart, wedging in a huge rock, packing the hole with smaller rocks, and reburying it!  When the snow melts off in the spring, the large rocks built into the trail edge help catch the sediment in the runoff and prevent it from going on the paved trail, so the water just flows smoothly over instead.   It’s actually more technical than it sounds, and fortunately we had the supervision of some incredible National Park Rangers very experienced in trail maintenance, who showed us the best tools to use and made sure we were creating stable checks that would last for years and protect the path.  If the trail gets all muddy, hikers start to create alternate routes through the fragile landscape, which kills the rare alpine plants that grow in the park along with other negative impacts.

We all came away with an incredible appreciation of the hard work and sweat required for this job (and blisters to prove it)!  I for one hope to return in the next few years and see if my rocks are still there and serving their purpose!  In the breaks between digging and smashing up rocks with hammers (pretty fun), we were lucky enough to get to look up and see the massive Mt. Rainier volcano right there – it was truly one of the most magnificent mountain vistas I have ever seen.

For me, I think what made the greatest impression is the dedication and passion of all the National Park staff we met during our time – many of them devoting decades of their careers, even living at the park, all to make sure the environment is conserved for future generations to enjoy responsibly and because they want to educate visitors about Mt. Rainier’s special history (it’s the 5th oldest National Park) and importance.  We even met the famed climber Lou Whittaker, age 87 now, who has ascended Mt. Rainier over 250 times!

Even though our one day of hard work in many ways was symbolic, I know that we made an impression on other visitors who saw what we were doing.  Many stopped to ask “What are you doing? What is Tourism Cares?” so we were able to share our story.  We learned that the park relies very heavily on volunteers to keep it protected, and I hope that it will inspire them to volunteer in the future as well.  The National Parks are one of the most special resources and treasures of this country and sadly seem perpetually underfunded, so it’s quite profound to know that each volunteer truly does make a difference.   

All in all a tremendously rewarding experience for everyone -- I was very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this special conservation project. It’s really what the heart of tourism is all about. 

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