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National Park volunteers honored with regional recognition
October 19, 2021

national park volunteer bill lowery
EBC Volunteer Bill Lowery receiving his award. Image by GSMNP

GSMNP - Great Smoky Mountains National Park is pleased to announce that the Elk Bugle Corp and Luftee Rover volunteers recently received the Regional Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Group. These 70 volunteers were recognized for their extraordinary service in 2020. The group dedicated over 2,400 hours of service by providing safe elk viewing tips to visitors and helping ensure that elk are not disturbed by viewing activities.

The popularity of elk viewing has grown exponentially since the elk were reintroduced to the park twenty years ago in Cataloochee. Since that time, the elk herd has thrived and expanded across the region and into the Oconaluftee area of the park. Visitor viewing now often presents management challenges due to congestion, viewing behavior, and animal disturbance. In spite of extreme rises in visitation and pandemic challenges, these volunteers remained on duty day after day to ensure the longterm protection of the elk.

“This work has often been in inclement weather, or with overwhelming crowds, and the volunteers eagerly respond by arriving early and leaving late,” said Wildlife Biologist Joe Yarkovich. “Through it all, their passion to help protect the wildlife of Great Smoky Mountains shines through as an example for all of us to follow when helping the public in the most visited national park in the country.”

The George and Helen Hartzog Awards Program for Outstanding Volunteers was created in honor of George B. Hartzog, who served as the National Park Service (NPS) Director from 1964-1972, and his wife, Helen, who was an avid volunteer in national parks. This highly competitive program recognizes above-and-beyond contributions made by volunteers at national parks across the country. In addition to the elk volunteer groups, the park also nominated volunteer couple, Scott and Jayne Young, for this prestigious award. The Youngs supported park programs throughout the pandemic by providing visitor information at Laurel Falls Trail and Sugarlands Visitor Center and providing critical, behind-the-scenes support of the parkwide volunteer program by assisting with data entry and correspondence. These honorees are among nearly 250,000 volunteers across the nation who donate their time, skills and talents to the NPS each year.

Luftee Rover volunteers Jerry and Jeannie Powell
Luftee Rover volunteers Jerry and Jeannie Powell. Image by GSMNP

“These special volunteers exemplify gold standard service that has come to be a signature of the Smokies volunteer program,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are deeply grateful for their service and dedication.”

Each year, more than 2,000 Volunteers-In-Parks perform a variety of activities at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These include providing valuable visitor information, removing litter, eradicating invasive plant species, assisting with cultural demonstrations, participating in special events, providing practical support for visitors along roads and trails, assisting with data collection, maintaining backcountry campsites, helping biologists monitor wildlife populations and working as campground hosts. To become a park volunteer, visit

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