October 19, 2011
Volunteers Tackle a Big Project with Teamwork
For the 11th consecutive year, Yellowstone National Park rangers welcomed the energetic, dedicated ARCH Yellowstone Volunteers, working with military veterans, and other friends, for an intensive week of service in mid-September. After successful past corral rebuilding efforts at Lamar Buffalo Ranch, Snake River, and Tower, the team set its sights on its most ambitious project yet: much-needed improvements to the West Corral, near the park’s West Entrance, in a mere five days.
Although seldom seen by the public, the West Corral is one of the largest corral operations in Yellowstone. It provides vital support to backcountry rangers and other park staff who require mules and horses to pack supplies for projects ranging from fisheries research, to bear management, to trail maintenance. The primary goals of the project were to rebuild three corrals to withstand severe winter conditions, replace gates, and add a 60-foot diameter round pen for training and working the horses.
With great gusto, a team worked together to bring the vision to reality in record time. The volunteers consisted of 11 members from ARCH Venture Partners, led by Clint Bybee – ARCH co-founder and Yellowstone Park Foundation (YPF) Advisory Council member; eight veterans from Wounded Warrior Project; some intrepid YPF staff and volunteers; two local citizens; and 16 National Park Service staff. Thanks to the generosity of the ARCH volunteers, their donations to YPF’s Ranger Heritage initiative made supplying the materials and equipment the project’s easiest task.
By the time the volunteers arrived, Yellowstone staff had already removed the rotting posts and sagging rails, and had re-designed the corral layout for efficiency and safety which led to extensive rebuilding and enlargement of the corrals. On Day One, after a safety briefing by rangers, the volunteers began by demolishing the old feeding trough, and staging posts and rails for constructing the new fence.
Next, the grueling work of installing posts. Smaller groups self-selected to dig 3.5-foot-deep post holes for the treated posts that would support new rails. Other groups devoted their muscle to puzzling through the geometry of creating fence corners and then carefully placing posts and bolting rails in a uniform pattern.
By Day Five, the dedicated crew had installed more than 700 linear feet of fencing and had constructed a West Corral entrance, complete with a carved wooden sign. After toiling side-by-side for long days of problem-solving, sweat, and laughter, the volunteers and NPS staff are immensely proud of what they accomplished in 900 intense volunteer hours. And like other ARCH Yellowstone Volunteers and Wounded Warrior Project collaborations, participants left the Park feeling like Yellowstone had given them just as much in return.
“It was a wonderful experience for all of us that were lucky enough to attend. [It] made me proud to have been able to serve with my fellow veterans, as well as all others involved,” said Paul Horton, a Wounded Warrior Project member from the Boston area. “[It] helped us to prove what a few disabled veterans can do, with the right people behind us.”