Hello!  My name is Joe Morse and I am the new Centennial Volunteer Ambassador (CVA) at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (FOVA).  Before I tell you about my park and what I’ll be doing there, I’d like to share with you my brief life bio:

I was born in Greenbelt, Maryland and I have lived there and attended high school in Washington DC for 18 years.  As a kid, I have always had a love for nature, spending time every week hiking in the Greenbelt Forest Preserve in my backyard, Greenbelt National Park, or mountain biking on the C&O canal.  But it wasn’t until I graduated high school that I really began taking my passion for the outdoors to the next level.

greenbelt

Greenbelt National Park and its wondrous fall foliage

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Upon graduating high school, I was privileged to be gifted the opportunity for a month-long expedition with a group called Wilderness Ventures.  After myself and 12 other kids my age met our intrepid trip leaders at the Seattle Airport on a sunny June afternoon, we departed for the Olympic beaches for a week-long backpacking excursion of the Olympic Beaches off the North Washington Coast, followed by a week of kayaking the San Juan Islands, a week backpacking through Ross Lake Recreation Area in the North Cascades, a summit of Mt. Rainier 14,411ft peak, and a celebratory dinner in Seattle.

north cascades

View of Ross Lake Recreation area from Desolation Peak

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In this adventure I had my first experience backpacking, long-term overnight camping, sea-kayaking, and summiting a glaciated peak.  Aside from witnessing the spectacular vista from the summit of Mt. rainier stretching from Southern Canada to Northern California, this trip helped define me as an individual for years to come.  Never before had I achieved what I considered such a tremendous task of independence.  It was this trip that inspired me to pursue my B.S. in Natural Resources Management at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, NY.

rainier

Lunch on the slopes of Mt. Rainier

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At ESF, I entered a 1 + 1 + 2 program, spending one-year on main campus, followed by a year at their Forest Ranger School in the Adirondacks earning an A.A.S. in Forest Technology, followed by 2 more years on main campus completing my B.S.  During my summer breaks, I worked multiple jobs with the SCA and the US Forest Service in eastern Nevada and eastern California, ranging from trail crew work, to YCC crew leading, to forest inventory. Finally, after finishing college, I moved to the west coast and I have been living in Portland, Oregon for the past two years.

nevada

Side view of a Bighorn sheep on Mt. Moriah in eastern Nevada.

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Fast forward those two years, I am excited to continue my west coast adventure as a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

For my position, I have been mandated to achieve several goals. These are to increase our number of volunteers by 5%, increase our volunteers’ hourly service output by 5%, expand existing partnerships and develop 3 or more new partnerships, conduct 12 new outreach events and reach 10% more community members, and attain volunteer demographics that are reflective of the city of Vancouver, Washington.  Additionally, I have made it my personal imperative to begin tabling on behalf of FOVA at local farmer’s markets, especially the downtown market at Portland State University. I want to encourage as many people as possible from Portland to come check out our site and meet our volunteers, as I feel that awareness of our site has slipped under their radar.

So far I have been kept busy at the fort!  I have worked with OMSI councilors and middle school campers and staff who camped within our fort walls, made and continue to make introductions with park staff and volunteers, visited our Mcloughlin House site down in Oregon City, conducted needs assessments with our volunteers and staff, interviewed our volunteers for our spotlight appreciation blog, and assisted with 4th of July festivities at the fort.  I have also contacted several farmer’s markets and am in the process of coordinating times we could table at their events.  Finally, I have been researching our forts history, using our parks own library archival collection.

I have also been assisting our talented interpretive staff with operations that keep our fort running.  An excellent example of the work our interpretive rangers perform is conducting Junior Ranger pledges. After a kid sufficiently explores our park and answers some trivia quiz questions, they can collect a Junior ranger badge from our park after reciting a pledge read to them by one of our interpretive rangers.  Every National Park offers unique Junior Ranger badges to kids who visit.  Justine Hanrahan, one of our interpretive staff reads the official pledge as such:

junior ranger

As a Junior Ranger, I promise to teach others about

what I learned today, explore other parks and historic

sites, and help preserve and protect these places so

future generations can enjoy them.

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So that’s a little snapshot of what my park is like and what I’ll be doing here.  Stay tuned!