Ray Lovely’s enthusiasm and innovation have led to the expansion of Olympic National Park’s Volunteer-In-Parks (VIP) program. He greatly expanded the use of volunteers to assist in the construction and maintenance of visitor facilities, such as the new Living Forest Trail near the Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles, Washington.
The Living Forest trail is a 1/3-mile loop trail that passes through second growth forest and wetland setting with views to nearby Peabody Creek. These types of facilities serve to both educate visitors about the environment and the need to conserve and restore natural and cultural resources. The ½-mile Moments in Time Trail at Lake Crescent is another accessible loop trail that Lovely and his volunteers helped make possible. Each year thousands of elementary school children enjoy these trails as part of guided educational walks.
Lovely has been sensitive to community needs by working with high school-age volunteers seeking to gain skills by performing community service by working on projects within Olympic National Park that are within and near the City of Port Angeles. Each year, Lovely is asked to work with local high school students in their efforts to perform community service projects for various reasons, such as meeting requirements for high school graduation or becoming an Eagle Scout. He has also reached out to retirees who are interested in performing community service projects and want to work on projects within Olympic National Park.
Ray Lovely has also been innovative in that he recognized the potential of utilizing the many skills of retired residents to assist in ongoing maintenance of certain of the park’s visitor facilities. Due to a lack of human resources to coordinate these and other volunteers, the potential for working with retirees was not being realized. The volunteers now play a critical role for the park’s Division of Maintenance to help to keep the park’s visitors facilities in good condition.
Lovely’s desire to expand the use of volunteers has enabled the park to utilize the services of certain volunteer groups requiring more logistical support than could be provided by park staff. An example is the use of the Landmark Volunteers, which is a group of high school-aged volunteers from around the country who have assisted in completing the Living Forest Trail in addition to other trail construction projects. For the last three years, a group of 12 Landmark Volunteers and their leader have traveled to Port Angeles to perform work for two weeks on a trail project within the park. The group stays at a nearby church where they also make their meals. Lovely has provided logistical coordination and worked directly with the students on the projects.
Ray Lovely has worked as a volunteer at Olympic National Park for nearly 10 years and has donated approximately 4,500 hours of time to the Volunteer-In-Parks program.