Voyageurs National Park Fall Rendezvous Restores Native Shoreline

Volunteers met at Voyageurs National Park last weekend to plant native trees and wildflowers and restore disturbed shoreline within the Park. Part of the Fall 2009 Volunteer Rendezvous, they are part of a growing effort by Voyageurs National Park Association and friends and supporters of the park to contribute to a healthy and vital park and community. Wilderness News Online caught up with VNPA Advancement Director Kari Volkmann-Carlsen, who spearheaded the event.

WN: How was the 2009 Rendezvous weekend?

VolRendezvous1Nineteen volunteers planted more than 1,000 native trees and wildflowers in just two days, which is triple the amount we planted last year. In total, we restored five different sites on the Namakan Lake shoreline where the natural landscape had been disturbed. We owe a part of our incredible success to the fortunate, sunny weather, though more importantly, we learned a lot from the 2008 Rendezvous. In addition to planting trees and flowers, volunteer students from the University of Minnesota Crookston Wildlife Society hiked the mainland collecting native wildflower seeds for propagation, which will be planted in the Park next year.

We definitely took some time to enjoy the Park. Park staff took volunteers to key historic sites around the Park, such as the Ellsworth Rock Gardens, the Kettle Falls Hotel, and the Hoist Bay logging camp. On Saturday evening the Association hosted a Celebration dinner, with help from the Arrowhead Lodge and the Friends of Voyageurs National Park. When you’re working in a National Park, it’s important to remember — Voyageurs was designated as a National Park to preserve its unique landscape and wildlife, and one of the greatest ways we can support it is to take time to enjoy its spectacular resources.

WN: Can you tell us about the origins of the Rendezvous weekend?

Voyageurs National Park Association began the Volunteer Rendezvous in 2006, in response to the Park’s request for our help in maintaining the hiking trail system. The Park’s longest trail, the Kab-Ash Trail extends 24 miles on the mainland and was in dire repair — its pathway was so overgrown and littered with fallen trees that visitors were getting lost along the way. Since the trails provide one of the only land-based activities, it was a serious problem and one that we wanted to help relieve. We received a two-year grant from the Quetico-Superior Foundation to begin the Volunteer Rendezvous, and their strong support really helped build the program into the dynamic and growing volunteer event that it is today.

WN: How has the volunteer weekend transformed over the years?

In 2008, the Park received budget funding to regularly maintain trails, so we shifted the focus of the Rendezvous from trail maintenance to habitat restoration. Because Park priorities change, our goal is to ensure that the Volunteer Rendezvous evolves to meet the needs of the Park and provide meaningful volunteer experiences. Next year, we plan to add another component by helping the Park implement a greenhouse for native plant propagation to make their restoration program more sustainable.

WN: How has the volunteer weekend impacted relationships in gateway communities?

VolRendezvous2From the beginning, the Volunteer Rendezvous has been aimed at building relationships between the Park, the Association, and the Park’s gateway communities. We work with area resorts to provide discounted meals and lodging for volunteers. Support for the program has really grown, and participation from members of local communities has steadily increased. The great thing about the Volunteer Rendezvous is that it’s got a very positive message about what it means to support the environment, and how that can also mean supporting local businesses. The area relies heavily on tourism, and visitors are more likely to come again and again if the resource they are visiting is well-maintained and beautiful. If a park has a group of people who are passionate enough about it take good care of its resources, it shows that it must be something special, and in that regard, Voyageurs National Park is very lucky. The weekend also provides an opportunity for resort owners, volunteers and local residents to connect on a more personal level that encourages return visitation.

Photos Courtesy Voyageurs National Park Association. The next Volunteer Rendezvous will be in fall 2010. Contact VNPA if you would like to receive details when they become available: vnpa@voyageurs.org or (612) 333-5424.

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