You know what they say about the tree that falls in the woods... If you don't record it, it didn't happen. Or something like that. Click here for the tools you need to do just that.
|Trail Volunteers are Truly VIPs
(But If You Don’t Report Your Hours, Your Hours Don’t Count!)
By Tom Gilbert
NPS Superintendent, Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Amendments to the National Trails System Act in 1983 added new emphasis to the importance of volunteers in building and maintaining our nation’s National Scenic and National Historic Trails. The amendment extended the Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) and Volunteers-in-Forests programs to cover volunteers who work to build and maintain these trails, even outside our national parks and forests.
VIP status provides important coverage for volunteers in the case of injuries suffered while doing volunteer work on national trails—their medical expenses can be compensated. It also protects them from personal liability in connection with the work they perform. In essence, the National Park Service (NPS) assumes the liability if, for example, a hiker gets injured using the trail and tries to sue the volunteer responsible for maintaining that segment of trail.
This coverage comes with a requirement—that volunteers immediately report any injuries to the NPS and that they record and report their hours of volunteer service. Reporting volunteer hours is accomplished by reporting them to the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation (IAPTF). Improved reporting procedures are being developed to track the hours by individual over the course of each year as well as a new program to recognize the contributions of volunteer time.
Reporting all of your hours is very important and has an impact on the level of federal funding for the Ice Age Trail and the VIP program. The NPS is required to annually report both the total number of volunteers and volunteer hours to Congress.
One of the reasons that the Ice Age Trail and other national trails receive relatively generous funding from the NPS Challenge Cost Share (CCS) program is that the value of volunteer hours contributed for various projects far exceeds the value of the federal funds committed to those projects. For more than 10 years, Congress has been setting aside 1/3 of the NPS CCS funds for national trails. National Scenic and Historic Trails receive this significant share of the funds because of the effectiveness of volunteer labor committed to those projects.
However, you don’t have to physically build and maintain the trail to be a VIP or report your hours. You can also report your hours if you are the person who maintains chapter records, prepares the newsletter, leads or plans chapter activities, writes articles for the local paper, provides interpretation, or stuffs envelopes for mailings. All of those activities and many more are needed to promote the trail, keep it in good condition for hikers, and serve other members of the IAPTF.
In addition, the travel time between your home and the trailhead, or an office or meeting location, should also be counted; you couldn’t do your volunteer work without this travel. You should also count meeting time for planning, publicity, or support activities.
So the next time you are tempted to skip recording and reporting your volunteer hours because “it doesn’t mean anything,” or “I’m not in this for the recognition,” or “it’s too much trouble,” please make the effort and jot down the hours and report them to the IAPTF. It really does make a difference.