Park Service honors local volunteers at annual dinner
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Oct 22, 2012, 13:40
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Park biolgist Tim Blumenschine thanked Lt. Blandon Prowse for the hard work of the airmen from Fort Lee who assisted the Resrouce Management Group at the Park.
The Park Service manages 84 million acres of land across the United States. Land set aside for preservation and protection so future generations can enjoy and learn from those millions of acres just as present and past generations have done.
The public lands belong to the American people and also rely upon their owners for help.
“With the Park Service, our federal budget has been cut so much we couldn’t get the projects done that we do and the jobs done that we do without the number of volunteers that come in and help us out,” said Richard Hotchkiss, Park Ranger and Volunteer Coordinator for Petersburg National Battlefield, describing the essential role volunteers play in helping the staff maintain the park.
This year, 1,283 volunteers contributed a total of 18,249 hours of work to Petersburg National Battlefield. That figure more than doubled the number of volunteers who assisted last year.
“We can’t accomplish a number of our projects and tasks without all of you,” Chris Bryce, Chief of Interpretation for Petersburg National Battlefield, said to the volunteers who flocked to the historic train station in Petersburg for the annual volunteer appreciation dinner.
He said that the Park Service’s budget fluctuates from year to year, depending on federal funding, but noted that the land management agency has an ace in its pocket that allows it to maintain a constant level of service.
“The one thing that allows us to stay pretty constant is the hours all of you put in,” he said.
Petersburg National Battlefield’s volunteers come from across the region and represent a wide variety of interests.
“They’re local residents from the community,” Hotchkiss said. “We have people from Dinwiddie, Chesterfield, Prince George, Hopewell, Colonial Heights. A number of military groups came in throughout the year and did a lot of volunteer work also.”
All summer long, soldiers and airmen from Fort Lee, easily recognizable in uniform, could be seen mowing grass, trimming hedges and assisting with general grounds maintenance at the park’s City Point unit in Hopewell and elsewhere. Others assisted in cleaning buildings and even in washing Civil War artifacts excavated from the park’s soil.
In addition to service members, local civic clubs, horseback riding associations, boy and girl scout troops and private people contributed thousands of hours to help maintain grounds, clean buildings and improve trails.
“We can’t give you a paycheck, but we can at least feed you,” Hotchkiss said on Saturday night, welcoming attendees to a potluck feast of fried chicken, barbecue sandwiches, coleslaw, chili and other fixings.
Although the park was pleased to see this year’s number of volunteers double from last year’s, Hotchkiss is always happy to see more and encourages those looking to put some time into community service to contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’ll have a sit down meeting with them, discuss what their interests are and we’ll go from there,” he said.