Park Volunteers Receive Regional and National Recognition

park vol 1Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are pleased to announce that several of our dedicated Volunteers in Park (VIP) received regional recognition for their outstanding service. Volunteers Raymond Palmer, Frank March, Daniel Metcalf, and the Centennial Volunteer Ambassador group were selected as recipients of Southeast Regional Service Awards for their exemplary service from over 42,000 volunteers who donated their time, skills, and talents in 66 national park units across 9 states in the southeast region.

“We are so very proud of the work accomplished by these enthusiastic and talented volunteers,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “They have not only further established the next generation of park supporters and advocates through their outreach, they have each contributed to the legacy of this park through their service. We are truly grateful for their dedication and support.”

Raymond Palmer is the recipient of the Southeast Regional Enduring Service Award. He began volunteering in the park over 20 years ago and has contributed over 15,500 hours of volunteer service which is equivalent to nearly 8 years of combined full-time service. Raymond shares his time and knowledge meticulously working in the park archives and also by answering questions for countless park visitors at Sugarlands Visitor Center each week. He brings history alive for visitors through his walk and talks where he introduces people to the unique role of the CCC in the park and the historical communities of Elkmont and the Sugarlands. Because of his passion, talents, and spirit of stewardship, he was selected to be one of the official Ambassadors for the park’s 75th Anniversary in 2009 and again in 2016 as a Centennial Volunteer Ambassador where he represented the park at numerous community events in celebration of these milestones. Notably, Raymond developed a first-person interpretative program in which he depicts the park’s first superintendent Ross Eakin in full 1930s uniform.

Frank March is the recipient of the Southeast Regional Individual Service Award. He volunteers every weekend at the Sugarlands Visitor Center information desk and answers visitor questions, especially those about the park’s 800 miles of trails which he has hiked at least three times. He has also documented all 150 cemeteries in the park and provided information about their location, inscriptions, and conditions. This body of work was recently compiled into a 600-page book about park cemeteries published by Great Smoky Mountains Association. His work is also used by the park’s maintenance and cultural resources staff to help better document and care for these special resources. Frank has been described by his supervisor as “an outstanding volunteer, an involved cultural resource advocate, educator, and a wellspring of knowledge.”

Twelve-year old Daniel Metcalf is the recipient of the Southeast Regional Youth Service Award. He was recognized for his work at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont where he volunteers to monitor phenological changes in the forest. Daniel, with his family, faithfully records observations of seasonal changes associated with trees, plants, and animals in his plot. He also regularly participates in bird banding and monarch butterfly tagging each season. Daniel recently displayed exceptional creativity when he wrote and illustrated a story about the connection he developed to his favorite tree in the plot. The book also illustrates his connection to the national park, his desire to conserve and protect it, and his interest in educating others about citizen science and phenology.

“Tremont Institute is so proud of Daniel and all he contributes in passion and time as a volunteer to our Citizen Science research program,” said Tremont President Jen Jones. “He sets a wonderful example of how each of us can make a meaningful contribution to our national parks and have fun while doing it.”

The Centennial Volunteer Ambassadors were awarded the Southeast Regional Group Volunteer Service Award. In preparation for the Centennial of the National Park Service, a team of highly skilled and talented volunteers was organized with the mission to connect with and establish the next generation of park users and advocates. This team of 35 members spent over 2,300 hours in communities across the region bringing the park to the people at over 90 community events. Focusing largely on urban areas, they led interpretive experiences at a myriad of festivals, fairs, and other public events. Throughout 2016, these Ambassadors connected with over 26,000 people as they raised awareness about park resources, recreational opportunities and inspired people to explore their National Parks.

Every year volunteers perform a variety of activities including assisting with cultural demonstrations, providing valuable visitor information, participating with special events, patrolling the roads and trails for visitors in need, removing litter, maintaining backcountry campsites and trails, assisting with data collection at research plots, removing non-native plant species, assisting campground staff as campground hosts, and helping fisheries biologist monitor trout populations. The park has approximately 2,000 volunteers which provide over 115,000 hours of service to the national park each year. To learn more about the park’s volunteer program visit