Superintendent encourages people to volunteer at monuments

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) — Dedicating a few hours of a busy week to volunteering can impact the community and its visitors for generations to come, especially when the public is the guardian of national monuments. Although the opportunity exists all year round, few people take advantage of it. That’s something Dan Morford, Superintendent of Scotts Bluff and Agate Fossil Beds National Monuments Park, wants to change.

“One of my goals is to reach out to the community for volunteer opportunities because we are a national park that was created by community leaders who wanted to preserve it,” Morford said. “We definitely need it. People don’t think about it often, but we do.

Volunteer numbers are currently low, with one or two people on site, which Morford attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scotts Bluff and Agate Fossil Beds National Monuments have volunteer coordinators who the public can contact for more information on how they can give back – Ittai Levine works at SBNM and AJ Legault works at Agate. They offer a variety of indoor and outdoor volunteer opportunities, depending on a person’s preferences and interests. If someone is interested in flowers and wants to be part of a flower walk, he or she connects with one of the coordinators to share their knowledge with other visitors.

“There are a variety of opportunities, but it’s up to the individual what skills they have, what they would like to help, how much they want to help,” Morford told the Scottsbluff Star-Herald. “They can talk to Ittai and AJ and see what we can do about it.”

While volunteers help monument staff with day-to-day tasks and special events, they also offer knowledge that not only benefits the monument, but visitors as well.

“I can tell you that our community members know the area and the community best,” Legault said. “They know the routes, the distances, the places, and they are an absolutely incredible resource for our visitors. They have first hand knowledge of the area and what it has to offer.

When people volunteer at national monuments, it is important to understand that the volunteer program has two components. One aspect is to foster local community engagement in their national monuments. The other part is that volunteers free up time for park rangers to organize tours and programs for the community.

“We are stewards of Scotts Bluff and Agate National Monuments,” Morford said. “So it’s very beneficial to have volunteers come to help us. Just helping out in their parks takes care of them in a way that will preserve it for children’s children’s children.

Morford said volunteers can help staff weed weeds, clean trails, paint projects and complete landscaping projects. An upcoming project will be the sanding, sealing and finishing of the benches in the amphitheater at SBNM. People can also volunteer to help at drop-in centers.

In addition to routine activities, monuments hold special events that require volunteers to help direct traffic and assist with the influx of visitors. An upcoming special event for SBNM is the American Solar Challenge, which is scheduled to take place in the region on July 11-12.

The ASC is a sun formula grand prix that begins in Independence, Missouri, and follows the Oregon Trail westward, ending in Twin Falls, Idaho, according to the ASC website. Scotts Bluff National Monument is the runners’ checkpoint on Monday, July 11, and will be the starting point the next day as they continue on to Casper, Wyoming.

“We always have things happening all the time,” Morford said. “The American Solar Car Challenge is still scheduled, and it’s special projects or events like this where we’re always looking for people to lead traffic or other needs.”

Morford said he was also open to the idea of ​​youth groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and organizations like the FFA helping to earn volunteer hours. Groups wishing to host a community service event are asked to provide membership numbers, so the park can keep track of the number of volunteers on file.

“If they need some sort of community service activity, I would encourage them to contact us,” he said.

As part of the National Park Service’s movement to raise awareness of the incredible places it administers, volunteers have the opportunity to learn more about their local parks and landmarks and work alongside staff to share the story. unique with visitors.

Legault said, “Volunteering here provides the chance to welcome our visitors and be a goodwill ambassador of the community to visitors from all over the world.”

Although the numbers are small, opportunities and undiscovered knowledge await volunteers when they find their park.

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