In honor of Valentine's Day, we're showing some love to a group of generous people we hold dear: our volunteers! Yosemite Conservancy's volunteer program has been in place for more than 30 years, and its impact is visible throughout the park. You'll see our volunteers at work every spring and summer, as they improve trails and remove invasive plants, welcome visitors in Wawona and the high country, help people navigate and learn about Yosemite Valley, share seasonal safety messages, and more.
Why do we love our volunteers so much? For starters, because they give a huge amount of their time to make a difference in Yosemite. In 2017, our more than 200 volunteers dedicated a combined 14,000 hours to help the park, had at least 470,000 conversations with park visitors and completed six weeklong restoration projects. With our 2018 spring and summer shifts still on the semi-distant horizon, some volunteers have agreed to donate days this February to support a new pilot program for managing traffic and visitor safety during the popular Horsetail Fall phenomenon.
We also love how much our volunteers love Yosemite. They're powerful ambassadors for the park, and for the Conservancy. And while we could write thousands of words about their work, we think it's far more inspiring (and important) to hear their stories. This month, take time to tune into some of those volunteer voices on our blog — you'll find tales from our monthlong visitor information assistants, an introduction to our volunteer program manager, a longtime restoration volunteer's take on why he spends weekends giving back, and look at companies that connect employees with projects in the park.
Beyond the Conservancy's weekend, work week and monthlong programs, volunteers play a role all over Yosemite. Big-wall adventurers support climbing stewardship or Search and Rescue activities. Keep It Wild crews head to the high country to protect wilderness habitat. Kids, teens and young adults pitch in on research and restoration projects. Preventive Search and Rescue teams patrol trails and educate visitors about staying safe. Thousands of people participate in the park's drop-in programs, and in the annual Yosemite Facelift event.
Want to get involved? Read our post about "Taking Time to Give Back" to get inspired, keep an eye on our website for opportunities (right now, we're looking to fill slots in our monthlong Wawona/Mariposa Grove program!), and find out how to volunteer with the National Park Service.
Meanwhile, we'd love to here your volunteer voice. Have you volunteered in Yosemite or another park? Have you had a memorable interaction with one of our volunteers? Share your stories on Instagram with the tag #MyVolunteerVoice, and check out the gallery to see what other people post. (We'll randomly select three contributors to receive an annual Yosemite pass.)
We hope you'll share your volunteer voice — and that you'll come back to read more! In the coming months, we'll be posting about programs and projects that benefit from volunteer support, whether at Happy Isles, where artists donate their time to teach creative classes; on the trails, where countless generous hands have helped restore routes for hikers and climbers; or in Yosemite's "living lab," as science interns support research on songbirds, glaciers and more.