National Park Volunteers, Thank You for Your Service

By Holly Giles | Field Trips

national park volunteers at virginia creeper

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National Park Volunteers

Did you know that many National Park Volunteers are serving our country by keeping parks and historical lands open to the public? Additionally, 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

Green Cove Station

First, we parked our bikes and went inside this quaint station. The station doubled for a general store and post office. It appeared that time stood still as we clopped on the old wood floors. For example, 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. They served the community as a train stop, store, post office, and freight office.  The Buchanan’s home was just yards away so they could serve the area continuously for their communication needs and the town’s storytelling spot.

National Park Volunteers

Next, 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. In addition, it is important to keep the doors open to serve the bicyclists coming by on the trail. Ruh and Scott have been Coming to Green Cove each summer for the last five years. Finally, 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 general store

We love visiting National Parks and Forests. However, 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 with us. Actually, they have 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. This couple has led re-enactments of time periods in Northern Minnesota of the fur trading years. Also, they led a wagon train of RV’s to Northern Alaska. This gig was sounding like the best job ever!

national park virginia overlook

The History

Ruh was passionate about their job. She and Scott love preserving history as National Park Volunteers. Subsequently, 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 Buchanans were entrepreneurs. They discovered 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 granddaughters of William Buchanan.

virginia creeper green cove station

The Future

Finally, does being a National Park volunteer sound interesting to you? I found a few resources that have an opportunity for all ages to participate. For instance, these opportunities help continue 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


national park volunteers at green cove


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.