Volunteers at McNeil Spring 2008

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Our Volunteers that went out to McNeil last spring (2008) are:

Norman Richter Chambersburg, PA
Jonathon Hinson Yarmouth, ME
Roger Gonya Chugiak, AK
Mark Granum West Lafayette, IN
Richard Greenfield Anchorage, AK

The first photo has a small piece of the boardwalk that FOMR volunteers and F&G staff installed over 4 summers to protect the tundra from erosion. It was a major undertaking.

This spring, the volunteers and staff will be doing the normal maintenance tasks, plus tearing down the tool shed, storing all the implements, leveling the site with beach gravel, installing wood piles (probably into frozen ground) and helping build a new tool shed-emergency shelter/cabin.


Newsletter March 2009 Article

2008 FOMR Volunteers trip to the Sanctuary
We had five volunteers in 2008 that went out to McNeil. They were Roger Gonya, Mark Granum, Richard Greenfield, Jonathan Hinson and Norman Richter.

Thanks go to them for all the hard work contributed in opening the camp. For the first time since the Sanctuary started, one of our volunteers experienced chest pains early on and had to be medivac’d out by the Coast Guard, at night, to Anchorage. He spent three days in the hospital and was diagnosed with a severe bronchitis-like illness that had caused the life threatening heart palpations and his evacuation. He was doing fine later that week, and was sad that everything worked out this way. When the rest of the volunteers came out at the trips end, one of them kindly drove the flown-over vehicle back to Anchorage to coordinate with Roger at the Safeway and spent the morning stocking up food.  Everyone had a car so we had no problem getting it over to the seaplane base, where we spent an enjoyable few hours talking to Chris and Ken Day at Emerald Air.  It turns out they used to be associated with Bill DeCreef at Kachemak Air Service, who I flew with many years ago and is no longer in service.  In fact, they celebrated his 78th birthday two days before we got there, so it was a happy time in Homer for everyone concerned.

During our week at McNeil, we had very positive interaction with the 3 rangers, and found them to be real gentlemen and eager to share their knowledge.  When we landed, however, we were faced with pretty major wind on the spit. Tom had just landed ten minutes before us, and his gear was still on the spit as well.  In addition, we had F&G freight on the plane.  Moving everything produced a lot of stress on the group until we could get the gear and supplies under cover.  I believe this contributed to the one volunteer’s not feeling right, which ultimately resulted in his evacuation by the Coast Guard.  I know everyone was happy that he and the Coast Guard personnel arrived safely in Anchorage and that the rangers did the right thing in calling in support.

For your future information in advising visitors to McNeil, they felt that the cooking facilities were adequate.  For trail work we have often recommended having a backpack along as part of each volunteers gear, but some of the out-of-state travelers felt that having a backpack was a burden, considering the new airline rules.  One person had shipped his pack, tent, and sleeping bag up to his hotel in Homer by UPS, and then took it home in a separate bag, which made life at the airport a little more complicated and expensive.  One suggested that in the future that people coming long distances check with REI in Anchorage and consult their rental department.  They can look in the REI catalog or online to get an idea of what tents and what packs are available for rental, ie. capacity, rainfly coverage, etc., which will make life easier in McNeil weather.

Whatever it costs, for some it may beat carrying all the gear through an airport and possibly paying extra charges for extra bags!  Some like using a waterproof bag with shoulder straps, like the ones used in raft trips and canoe portages, but others have hated them.  You don’t have to carry the gear very far from the plane (1/4 mile+) and protection from rain is important.  As far as footwear is concerned, hip-boots are imperative, but regular boots are OK around camp just to give you a change of footwear.

The rangers were kind enough to allow us to camp in the cookshack and sleep on the floor, which Tom had just freshly painted.  This is normally not the case, and can’t be relied upon for future trips. The volunteers realized immediately, in the windstorm, what a blessing this was – putting up a tent and remaining dry for a week would have been a real test of outdoor skills! Previous years tents have blown down, sometimes during the night, with duct tape and help from the other volunteers needed to put things back in order. One of most sanctuary visitors and staff members  favorite memories is of the sauna, which is always a very pleasant surprise and was one of the hits of these volunteers existence during the week!

The bears, of course, were real gentlemen as always and allowed us to say hello as they went


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