Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials once again are looking for volunteers to help them manage both people and elk in the Cataloochee Valley on the North Carolina side of the park.
The “Elk Bugle Corps” program assists park rangers with providing visitor information on responsible elk viewing practices and elk behavior and to help with parking and traffic management. Last year, this group of volunteers totaled some 80 persons from around the area. They donated more than 7,000 hours of service and spoke with more than 85,000 visitors.
Many of these volunteers are returning, but there is a need to replace a number of volunteers who are moving on to other opportunities this summer. The park’s goal is to recruit and train new volunteers who can commit to assisting on a recurring basis.
Each volunteer is asked to work at least two scheduled, four-hour shifts per month starting the second week in May and continuing through November. This target period is during high visitor use from late spring during the elk calving season through the end of the fall color and elk mating seasons.
The program’s greatest need is for volunteers to work the afternoon shifts, which will run from approximately 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the summer. Although elk are not as active at this time of day, Cataloochee Valley is still relatively busy and the volunteers have the opportunity to spend more time with individual visitors.
“We feel the program is a win-win situation," said Cataloochee Area Park Ranger Mark LaShell. "We continue to receive positive feedback from the Cataloochee volunteers who enjoy working in such a beautiful mountain valley and from visitors who receive a better experience having these volunteers to interact with in an otherwise remote area with no personal services.”
For persons interested, two informational meetings and new volunteer orientation sessions will be held in Cataloochee Valley at the ranger station on April 15 and 17, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. All potential volunteers will be required to attend one of the orientation sessions as well as one full day of training during the last week of April and the first week of May.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering and attending one of the orientation sessions is asked to RSVP to Ranger Mark LaShell at [email protected] or 828/269-3161 (email is preferred).