National Park Volunteers, Thank You for Your Service

By Holly Giles | Field Trips

virginia creeper

Did you know that many National Park Volunteers are serving our country by keeping parks and historical lands open to the public? Many of the beautiful places we visit would be closed if it were not for volunteers.

Our family was on a working vacation in Tennessee visiting family. On a day trip, we visited the Smoky Mountain area up into Virginia. Off the beaten path in a little town where the famous Virginia Creeper bike trail passes through is an old railroad station called Green Cove.

virginia creeper

Green Cove Station

We parked our bikes and went inside this quaint station that in the past doubled for a general store and post office. It appeared that time stood still as we clopped on the old wood floors. The original stock of every product you can imagine lined the shelves of this multipurpose store. Green Cove Station is the only original depot building still standing along the Virginia Creeper Trail. William Buchanan and his wife ran the private station along with their daughters to serve the community as a train stop, store, post office and freight office. ┬áThe Buchanan’s home was just yards away so they could serve the area continuously for their communication needs and the town storytelling spot.

National Park Volunteers

Inside we met Ruh Berg and Scott Traxler. They have been National Forest Volunteers since 2001. Ruh was quick to answer questions and help us find the moon pies Grayson and Grant wanted as a snack. We struck up a conversation and that is when I discovered how important volunteers are. Ruh told us that Green Cove is only open if there are volunteers to be there to keep the doors open and serve the bicyclists coming by on the trail. Ruh and Scott have been Coming to Green Cove each summer for the last five years. We also discovered that when they are not volunteering, they live in Ocala, Florida, just an hour away from our home. It is a small world.

national park volunteer

We love visiting National Parks and Forests, but I had never considered that there could be beautiful places that the public cannot access due to not enough rangers. National Park Volunteers are relied upon to keep many places alive and available for us to enjoy.

The Gig

Ruh and Scott shared all the places they have traveled and had life-changing experiences by being volunteers for National Parks and the Forestry Division. They have traveled all over the country serving in places like Oregon State Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Lake Tahoe and Sand Dunes National Park. They have led re-enactments of time periods in Northern Minnesota of the fur trading years and led a wagon train of RV’s to Northern Alaska. This gig was sounding like the best job ever!

national park virginia

The History

Ruh was passionate about their job. She and Scott love preserving history as National Park Volunteers and that is exactly what they are doing here at Green Cove. Sharing stories of the people who passed through this town generations ago.

The Buchanan’s operated a well-oiled machine during the heyday of train travel. A telegraph was sent to the station before each departure heading their way. A list of the number of passengers was sent and any special requests. Mrs. Buchanan and her daughters would make sandwiches, coffee, and a special dessert. The trays would be set up as the train arrived and it was offered to the passengers for a nickel. The Buchanan’s were entrepreneurs seeking many ways to take care of their family and serve the community and its needs. Their home still stands and is now a bed and breakfast operated by one of the granddaughter’s of William Buchanan.

virginia creeper

The Future

Does being a National Park volunteer sound interesting to you? I found a few resources that have an opportunity for all ages to participate in continuing the awesome resources we have in this great land. Whether it is a summer adventure for your family, a teen volunteer corps or a retirement opportunity, you can serve your country in countless ways. Serving to preserve the great history that made America is an important job for our future.

Next time you visit a park or out of the way museum, ask the caretakers about their job. You will meet the most wonderful people with a passion for preservation.

green cove virginia




About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.