The Real VIPs of the National Park System

Living history volunteer with Gettysburg visitors

Living history volunteer with Gettysburg visitors

In every one of the 401 national parks in this country volunteers are the true VIPs – Volunteers In Parks!  Gettysburg National Military Park’s and Eisenhower National Historic Site’s volunteer programs continue to be critically important to the operation and mission of the two parks.  Volunteers serve in the Park Watch patrol; living history programs; Adopt-a-Position; the park library; care of museum collections; the cannon carriage restoration shop; visitor services; and more.  The annual Friends of Gettysburg volunteer day is our biggest volunteer event of the year and includes fence building projects, painting projects, brush removal and other important tasks at both the Gettysburg and Eisenhower sites. 

In fiscal year 2013 (FY13), a total of 2,597 volunteers donated 48,363 hours to Gettysburg National Military Park.  The private sector estimates the value of each volunteer hour in Pennsylvania at $21.25, so that adds up to $1,027,714 in additional work completed by the Gettysburg and Eisenhower parks last year alone.  Talk about a public/private partnership!

If you’ve ever considered getting more involved with the park, here are some of the biggest programs:

Living History Programs - Every year on almost every weekend from April through October we offer weekends of living history presentations to park visitors utilizing all-volunteer units.  The units represent every aspect of the Civil War including infantry, artillery, cavalry, medical, signal corps, and more than a dozen different civilian units.  In FY13, 1,229 living historians donated 23,528 hours to the park for 39 weekends of living history programs for our visitors, including a huge 150th program with 20 black powder firing demonstrations to approximately 15,000 visitors.

Cutting brush along Gettysburg's fence lines isn't easy!

Cutting brush along Gettysburg’s fence lines isn’t easy!

Adopt-a-Position – The purpose of this program is to engage volunteers in helping to maintain the historic setting of the battlefield.  Volunteers perform maintenance and labor that otherwise would not be completed due to budget and staffing restraints.  The areas on the battlefield that benefit are not only the regimental positions including battery locations, but also fields and historic fence lines. Work takes place in the spring and the fall each year and can be scheduled for any day of the week except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

In FY13, we had 1,203 volunteers donate 5,273 hours to the Adopt-a-Position program.  Volunteers helped to maintain areas around 264 monuments by cutting vegetation, raking leaves, and planting grass seed.  Others painted picnic tables, repaired fences and stone walls, and also cleared vegetation from around boulders.  This year volunteers cleared brush from approximately 8,267 feet of fences and repaired totaled approximately 5,475 feet of fence.  That’s mileage!

Volunteers help visitors feel welcome

Volunteers help visitors feel welcome

Visitor Services Volunteers – If you’re a people person, this is the job for you.  In FY13, we had 56 Visitor Services volunteers log 7,790 hours of assistance to visitors at six main contact stations: the Visitor Center Information Desk; Visitor Center Plaza; Resource Room; Museum Galleries; National Cemetery and the West End station.  In addition, they offered assistance on a myriad of extra projects including leading interactive stations during student education programs and Homeschool Days, assisting with crowd control during the massive anniversary battle walks.

Park Watch on the job

Park Watch on the job

Park Watch – The volunteer Park Watch program started 17 years ago during a rash of vandalism on the Gettysburg battlefield.  Park watchers serve in highly visible roles, sporting Park Watch jackets, hats, and car decals.  Sometimes they are covert, quietly serving as the eyes and ears of park protection rangers.  They have been awarded the Governor’s “Citizen’s Crime Prevention Award” on numerous occasions.  Park Watch has also received the Gettysburg Adams Chamber of Commerce “Someone Special Award” and the National Park Service Northeast Region’s “Protection Award for Excellence.” 

During the 150th battle anniversary, 89 volunteers assisted with parking and directing visitors, in addition to their regular patrolling of the park.  They also accompanied battle walks and augmented the night shift patrol staff to keep park resources safe.  During the battle anniversary alone, 89 volunteers donated 5,350 hours to the park.  The totals for FY13 are 91 volunteers donating 6,573 hours.         

At the Eisenhower National Historic Site – Final numbers are not yet in, but at least 550 volunteers donated more than 17,000 hours to Eisenhower NHS.  Volunteers present orientation tours and provide interpretation in the Eisenhower home, build and paint fences, convert oral histories to digital format, scan historic photos, tend the Eisenhower vegetable garden, provide interpretation at the show barn, assist with special events and more.  We are very proud that Eisenhower volunteers include the crew of the USS Eisenhower (CVN-69) and Road Scholars program participants.

The parks also have volunteer positions in resource management, the cannon carriage restoration shop, serving as campground host and working in museum services, and helping care for the park collections of artifacts and archives.  To find out more about park volunteer opportunities go to:  http://www.nps.gov/gett/supportyourpark/volunteer.htm

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, October 25, 2013

 

 

 

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Staff of Gettysburg National Military Park
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One Response to The Real VIPs of the National Park System

  1. rob Koenigsberg says:

    I am a volunteer at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site and the Johnstown Flood National Memorial. Congrats and A Good Job pat on the back to the VIPs at Gettysburg for the great job they did this year for the 150th anniversary. Keep up the good work!

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