NPS volunteer Tony Valois received an award honoring him for his outstanding service. As part of his camp host volunteering, he did a special project creating an online encyclopedia of wildflowers.
The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation honored the recipients of the 2009 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service at a ceremony in Washington last Thursday.
Richard Meissner, one of the volunteers honored, summed up the spirit of the event. “I, and most volunteers, consider volunteering in a national park a privilege, a unique opportunity. . . . Where else can one work at a lighthouse, in a desert, at the home of an important American? We VIPs feel truly blessed, and appreciated.”
The Hartzog Individual Volunteer Award was presented to Tony Valois from Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California. Valois’ expertise in computer programming, photography, and botany has been a tremendous asset to the park. Valois combined his talents to create a web-based photographic guide to the park’s wildflowers. The guide contains 4,000 photographers he took of more than 700 species. The website provides a “flower-finder” tool for identifying flowers based on simple characteristics. Valois has devoted more than 5,000 hours to building and improving the guide and recently transferred the entire database to a new system with a simple search key and mobile phone applications. Valois created the guide while serving in his primary volunteer role as a campground host.
The Hartzog Park Volunteer Program Award went to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Volunteers-In-Parks Program. Last year, the park’s 4,050 NPS volunteers donated 122,200 hours to meaningful projects in maintenance, visitor services, education, resource protection, law enforcement, and administration. The VIPs monitored invasive mussels, inventoried abandoned mines, and rid the park of over 33 tons of garbage. In addition to maintaining existing volunteer activities, the park created, marketed, recruited, and implemented two new programs. Operation Zero (OZ): Citizens Removing & Eliminating Waste (CREW) engaged community groups and families in cleaning coves around the lake by boat. The Resource Steward Program used volunteers to collect data about the park’s cultural and natural resources.
National Park Service Deputy Director Mickey Fearn congratulated the recipients and recognized the contributions made by all park volunteers. “Volunteers increase the energy of the National Park Service and allow us to continue to do what needs to be done, including all things that could not be done without them.”
The George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service were started eight years ago to recognize the time, talent, innovation, and hard work contributed to national parks through the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program. Last year, 196,000 volunteers spent 5.9 million hours assisting the National Park Service.
The above information on the 2009 George and Helen Hartzog Awards honoring NPS volunteers comes from a press release put out by the National Park Service.