Volunteers Helped Make National Park Week A Success

Across the nation, people took to the national parks in late-April not only to visit, but also to roll up their sleeves. They worked on projects to improve the parks and help others learn about these special places.

It was no different in western Pennsylvania. Almost 10,000 people visited and volunteered at the five national park sites across the region during National Park Week, according to the National Park Service.

At Fort Necessity National Battlefield, the Park Service opened the traveling exhibit Emissaries of Peace: 1762 Cherokee & British Delegations, 250th Anniversary in partnership with the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Volunteers from the Friends of Fort Necessity helped with the launch of the exhibit as well as living history programs and the introduction of a new web-based junior ranger program for kids.

Members of the Cherokee Nation will return on July 7 and 8 for Cherokee Cultural Heritage Festival. The exhibit kicks-off a summer of activities at both Fort Necessity National Battlefield and nearby Friendship Hill National Historic Site.

Volunteers also gathered at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site and Johnstown Flood National Memorial to participate in the United Way -- National Park Service Day of Caring. Volunteers re-vegetated areas of the parks and removed over 7,000 garlic mustard plants, a non-native, exotic species. According to Natural Resource Specialist Kathy Penrod, the volunteer effort stopped the spread of about six million seeds into the park.

And at the Flight 93 National Memorial, 600 volunteers donated more than 1,500 hours over two weekends to plant trees. Almost 15,000 trees were planted as part of a multi-year effort to continue reforestation of the reclaimed mining site.

National Park Service Superintendent Jeff Reinbold said, "Local residents have been key in establishing these parks. It's very rewarding to see a new generation of people come forward to help care for these places and share the stories of these sites with others."

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On the Pacific coast, the 13th annual Washington Coast Cleanup brought out 1325 volunteers who removed some 30 tons of ocean debris. Olympic National Park's wilderness beaches are a favorite of many volunteers, some of whom spent up to 3 days camping on the beach and packing multiple packloads of trash several miles out to trailheads daily. The bulk of this trash is plastic from Asia. Debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan is just beginning to arrive, as well.

"This cleanup exemplifies the value and contributions that volunteers add to Olympic National Park. What a great way to begin National Park Week." said Acting Superintendent Todd Suess.