I am Hilary Grabowska,a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador for the National Park Service at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
I just attended a wonderful Volunteer project orientation led by the Law Enforcement division at Harpers Ferry NHP. Located about 60 miles from Washington, DC and Baltimore, Harpers Ferry NHP is a popular destination, especially for hiking. It is advertised as one of the must-do hikes for the metro area and once the hike has been completed, visitors can boast that they did what President Lincoln could not do: hike up Maryland Heights!
But with the increase of hikers, the trail is being overused. Interp staff, LE staff and Maintenance staff can’t always make it up the hike to engage with visitors, clear trees, remove vandalism or ensure that it is safe. In come the volunteers to the rescue!
Photo: Hilary Grabowska (View from Maryland Heights)
Our Chief Ranger, Ryan Levins, used to work at Gettysburg National Military Park and when he moved to Harpers Ferry NHP, he decided to emulate the Gettysburg NMP watch program. Today marked the second of two orientations for our Park Watch volunteers. They have agreed to commit 5 hours per month to volunteering on Maryland Heights. They will inform LE Rangers of instances of illegal camping or of injured hikers, they will inform Maintenance staff if there are downed trees or dangerous sections of trails and they will answer visitor questions.
Our volunteers are locals who love this hike and want to see its continued use but in a sustainable way. One of the Park Watch volunteers has always dreamed of being a Conservation Officer and here is her chance to do just that! Our volunteers have already found their park, but they are working to maintain it and to help others to make a connection with Harpers Ferry NHP and to find their park.
Ryan Levins is the LE Ranger who was in the bicycle accident at the 2015 World Police & Fire Games in Prince William Forest Park on July 2. Yesterday, he was awake and was able to go outside for the first time since the accident. We are very happy to hear this good news and hope Ryan will rejoin us at Harpers Ferry NHP as soon as he can!