By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Volunteers play huge role at Caverns


September 27, 2017

Each year people from all over the world descend upon Lewis and Clark Caverns, with thousands coming during the summer to take part in the popular cave tours. While a dedicated and thoroughly knowledgeable Montana State Parks staff does an amazing job keeping the Caverns one of the true gems of Montana, volunteers also play an integral role in helping things run smoothly.

"Volunteers are an essential part of daily operations at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park," said Brian Turner with the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park AmeriCorps.

As an example, Turner said much of the campground operations are performed by volunteer hosts who spend a month or more marking the reserved sites, collecting fees, cleaning the campground, and reminding visitors to follow campground guidelines.

"Also, park visitor center docents are essential in assisting full time staff with daily operations. They answer phones and visitor questions as well as help stock local brochures and clean facilities. Cave sweeps assist tour guides on Wild Cave Tours that are offered on Tuesday and Sunday evenings mid-June through mid-August. They ensure that group stays safely together on these less developed trails in the caverns," he said.

Another huge role played by volunteers at the park are with single day projects involving trail maintenance and cave restoration.

"These volunteers make a much larger impact in the park than they imagine because without them, it would take staff days to accomplish what a large volunteer group could do in just a few hours," he said.

In 2017, Turner said volunteers were key contributors in the park's opening cave cleaning, Earth Day trail maintenance and invasive species removal.

He expects the same for an upcoming National Public Lands Day Cave Restoration.

Turner added in April, members of the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto removed dust and lint from cave formations to prepare the cave for summer visitation.

Another huge volunteer event was on Earth Day, when over 80 volunteers split into groups to remove invasive species such as spotted knapweed, mullen, and houndstongue, while one large group of mountain bikers smoothed and repaired eight and a half miles of park trails

The park currently has 25 pre-registered volunteers lined up for the National Public Lands Day Cave Restoration on Saturday, September 30th.

Turner said they still have room to accommodate a few more volunteers.

File Photo

Tools are lined up for volunteers earlier this year at the Lewis and Clark Caverns.

"We so appreciate the volunteers from our local communities who support Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park enough to donate their time to a park that they enjoy. Their efforts improve the park services and facilities – a benefit not only to themselves but also for those who are seeing it for the first time. These amazingly gifted and generous people inspire a greater number of visitors to help in the coming years to keep Montana's first state park beautiful, accessible and impressive for everyone," Turner said.

To help out with the September 30 event, please call (406) 287-3541 to register.


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