Yosemite National Park, in conjunction with a celebration of National Public Lands Day, recently recognized the outstanding contributions of people and work groups who provided exceptional volunteer services to the park.
It was the fourth such ceremony at Yosemite, where volunteers repaired trails, removed invasive plants, assisted visitors, curated museum artifacts, educated hikers to leave no trace, researched wildlife, performed clerical work, and provided visitors with preventive search and rescue information.
More than 9,500 volunteers donate more than 187,000 hours of work to the park each year.
“Volunteers are an integral part of Yosemite’s preservation and protection,” park superintendent Don Neubacher said in a news release.
“They repair trails, clean roadways, assist visitors, survey wildlife, patrol camps and do innumerable other important jobs that all help to preserve the magic of Yosemite National Park.
“It takes incredible people to provide this level of exceptional volunteer service, and at Yosemite we are very thankful for their contribution.”
Recipients of the fourth annual awards are:
Individual volunteer award: Kim and Loren Ross, who helped the park create its first formal Preventativev Search and Rescue program. They recruited and trained more than 80 volunteers to help educate the public on safety in the park and to respond to emergencies.
Individual youth volunteer award: Alejandra Guzman, a student at the University of California, Merced, who has participated in the Yosemite Leadership Program summer internship for two years. This year, she took on a new role as lead intern – mentoring new students and providing educational programming to youth in other programs, including the Youth Conservation Corps and California Conservation Corps.
Enduring volunteer award: Bill Sonka, who has worked for 10 years in the Yosemite desk officer program, recruiting retired law enforcement officers to assist the National Park Service law enforcement staff with accident reports, bear incidents, traffic management and more.
Volunteer group award: Wilderness Volunteers, a national group that for nine years has sent a team to the park each June to work in the Tiltil Valley and other areas around Hetch Hetchy on wilderness-restoration efforts. Their work has included removing invasive plants and illegal campsites, restoring impacted areas and surveying rare plant species.
Volunteer youth group award: Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek. Students from the middle school, along with their teachers, conduct wildlife research on toads and birds in the back country. Students hike to remote wilderness lakes to capture and inventory amphibians.
Supervisor of volunteers award: Ruth Heine, Yosemite volunteer program assistant coordinator. For several summers, Heine has managed up to 18 volunteers monthly in the visitor information assistant program in Yosemite Valley while also coordinating weeklong volunteer groups, working weekends for corporations, and fundraising during park fee-free days.
Yosemite volunteer program award: the Yosemite leadership program summer internship, which, in partnership with UC Merced, placed 14 college students in internships at Yosemite this summer. The students worked in various roles, from youth education to wildlife research, Spanish-language visitor information to administrative support for the superintendent’s office.
Face-lift volunteer award: Jim Painter, a critical part of the team that brings in more than 1,000 people each year to help pick up trash after a busy summer at the park.
NatureBridge service project instructor of the year: Andrew David, whose dedication to a stewardship ethic inspires his students every day, engaging nearly all of them in projects including removal of conifers from meadows, litter pickup, snow surveys, and stream bio-monitoring.