Yosemite National Park celebrated its volunteers at the sixth annual Volunteer Awards Ceremony on National Public Lands Day Sept. 26.
The ceremony was conducted to recognize outstanding volunteers who have donated their time, talent, and skills to protect and preserve park resources and provide excellent service to park visitors.
This year, park volunteers repaired trails, removed invasive plants, assisted visitors, curated museum artifacts, educated hikers on how to leave no trace, researched wildlife, performed clerical work, and provided valuable preventative search and rescue information to park visitors.
On average, Yosemite hosts over 10,000 volunteers per year, who donate over 163,000 hours of work to clean up and protect the park. The award ceremony is held on National Public Lands Day each year, as part of the annual Yosemite Facelift park-wide cleanup event.
“Volunteers perform a wide array of important work in the park,” said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent. “We are incredibly grateful these volunteers donate their time and talent to provide lasting contributions towards the preservation of Yosemite National Park.”
The recipients of the sixth annual Yosemite Volunteer Awards were:
Individual Volunteer Award
Talya Havice: This was Havice’s second year serving as a preventative search and rescue intern, which reached over 1,700 visitors this year. Her work helped to protect park visitors and prevent serious injuries. She has been a critical asset in providing training and orientation to other volunteers in the program.
Individual Youth Volunteer Award
Natali Torsch: Torsch served as a volunteer intern on the park’s meadow monitoring crew. She worked in difficult conditions doing work in wilderness areas with little supervision. She had a great attitude and went above and beyond her work assignments, including creating a field reference guide for plants in Tuolumne Meadows.
Enduring Service Award
MaryJane Johnson: Johnson has been serving in Yosemite for over 20 years, living in park campgrounds for up to five months each year. She volunteers with the Yosemite Conservancy (YC), combining the roles of information assistant and office assistance. Her deep knowledge of both Yosemite National Park and the YC volunteer program has been critical to the success of many YC volunteers. Her “back of the house” work keeps all the supplies organized, the metrics recorded, the training materials current, and schedules up to date.
Group Volunteer Award
AAA (CSAA Insurance Group): AAA has been volunteering at Yosemite for over 15 years, bringing groups of 30 people for three to five projects each year. They take on the dirtiest tasks - cleaning campground fire rings, picking up litter, and more; and they work with enthusiasm. AAA has a strong corporate culture of volunteerism, supporting parks throughout the country.
Youth Group Volunteer Award
Boy Scout Troop 1776: Troop 1776 from Fallon, Nevada, has been serving in Yosemite for several years, through a two-day-long service project with the invasive plants program. They are incredibly organized, have a great work ethic, and are a pleasure to work with. They are among our most productive volunteer groups, working as hard as they can to get the work done.
Supervisor of Volunteers Award
Margaret Eissler: Eissler supervises both paid and volunteer staff of the Interpretation Program in Tuolumne Meadows. The words most often used by her volunteers to describe her tend to be “nurturing” and “caring.” She’s also incredibly organized, having all volunteer paperwork and supplies ready before they arrive. She gives them the tools needed to succeed, and then helps them to soar.
Volunteer Program Award
PSAR Program: The Yosemite Preventative Search and Rescue (PSAR) program is only a few years old, but has had a great impact on the safety of visitors to the park. Volunteers serve as full time interns, part time/intermittent volunteers, and supervisors of other volunteers. It is a complex operation with intensive training required. The program has effectively engaged volunteers to achieve park safety goals.
Leo Burk: Burk has served as part of the Yosemite Climbing Association’s core team of volunteers for almost every year of the event. He’s always there when needed, with a quiet and steady work ethic.
NatureBridge Stewardship Instructor of the Year
Rebecca Ryan: Ryan has worked to engage her youth groups in learning through service at the park. She looks for ways they can perform volunteer work that complements their educational goals.