Editor's note: Located not far from the political powerbase of the United States, Shenandoah National Park offers a retreat from the stress and angst of the day. The Shenandoah National Park Trust works every day to ensure that the park remains such a sublime retreat. In this installment of the Traveler's Essential Friends project, we introduce you to the Trust and its mission in the park.
As the official philanthropic partner of Shenandoah National Park, Shenandoah National Park Trust is working to build a community dedicated to the future of this remarkable national treasure. To achieve its mission, the Trust cultivates private funds while providing the public a growing awareness of this richly historic park's wonders.
The Trust provides funding to support the full range of projects and programs its park offers, including natural and cultural resource protection, education, research, infrastructure repair and maintenance, and visitor services.
One project the non-profit funded helped the park recall its roots with a major restoration of Skyline Drive's Old Rag View Overlook. The work sets a precedent for future restorations by replacing old metal guardrails with hardwood rails reminiscent of the chestnut structures the CCC built in the 1930s.
Shenandoah's natural resources are subject to multiple challenges, including air and water pollution, climate change and invasive species. The Trust is funding numerous projects to help the park address these issues.
Over the years, hazy pollution has diminished the park's famous views and has made some of its streams as acidic as lemon juice.
The Trust is funding development of signage outside the park's air quality monitoring station at Big Meadows and an associated interactive module in the nearby Harry F. Byrd Visitor Center to educate park visitors on the problem and encourage efforts to clear the air.
The organization also is funding the park's first Climate Change Education Program, which is aimed at assessing the fate of the globally rare Shenandoah salamander and other high-elevation species affected by climate change. The effort will feature ranger-led interpretive programs, web-based resources and a classroom component.
Forest restoration and eradication of invasive plant species is a multi-year funding priority for the Trust. The goal is to re-establish native species and protect the park's most ecologically important areas.
Trust efforts also help hikers. At Big Meadow's Byrd Visitor Center, park visitors can rent GPS units that display interpretive audio, video, and animated interpretive information at spots on four separate hikes.
Old Rag is the park's most popular and rugged peak'and the Trust's recent funding of a summit cache of search and rescue gear has saved lives.
The organization funded a stabilization plan intended to protect one of the park's most historic sites, an 18th-century iron furnace that may have supplied ore to James Madison's iron works. The Trust has also invested resources in schematic plans for the 're-envisioning' of the Loft Mountain area, which includes the first LEED-certified environmentally sustainable park ranger contact station and indoor/outdoor meeting and educational space in the park.
The Trust raises money through a variety of sources, including individuals, foundations, corporations and events. It also raises funds'and awareness'of Shenandoah National Park through the sale of license plates, which depict the Blue Ridge Mountains, Skyline Drive and a black bear.
Fifteen dollars comes to the Trust from every purchase and renewal. In its first year, $45,000 was generated to support the park. The plate is one of the most popular of the 200 specialty plates in Virginia. The Trust recently launched a motorcycle version of the plate, with the same $15 donation coming to the organization.
Shenandoah National Park is one of the crown jewels of the national park system. Its partner, Shenandoah National Park Trust, is dedicated to ensuring that it remains that way for generations to come.
Best Ways To Help The Shenandoah Trust
* Purchase a Shenandoah National Park license plate for your car or motorcycle.
* Check-in'at any of the classic park lodges. The lodging fee at Big Meadows Lodge, Skyland Resort, or Lewis Mountain's historic cabins includes $1 per room per night for the Trust, unless you request to have that removed from your bill.
* Hike your way to higher impact for the park. Join the Trust and your membership includes automatic membership in the Hundred Mile Club. When you reach 25, 50, 75 and 100 miles, the Trust sends great gifts. To help you reach your hundred miles, the Trust has regularly scheduled, guided hikes and The Shenandoah Scramble on Saturday, September 22, 2012 is a hiker's fundraising event that will bring hikers together for food and fun in Shenandoah National Park.
* Engage the Trust in a diverse range of gifting options that include cash and stocks, a gift in your will, or in memory or in honor of someone special.
Coming Sunday: Explore Shenandoah National Park with insider tips from the Trust.
Coming next Wednesday: The Yellowstone Park Fund.