Earlier this month, a small nonprofit known as the Friends of Mount Rogers presented an oversized check to their agency partner at a local county Board of Supervisors meeting in Marion, VA. Pictured below is President Ed Pietrzak and others from the group paying it forward to U.S. Forest Service Area Ranger Beth Merz with $10,000 that they earned for the forest in 2015. The check will not only support the forest’s educational programs and visitor services but it acts as a symbolic gesture -- that the friends group is there to support the forest and that the U.S. Forest Service has a determined group of volunteers to rely on for its upcoming season.
The Friends of Mount Rogers present their 2015 support check of $10,000 to Mount Rogers National Recreation Area Ranger Beth Merz.
The Friends of Mount Rogers was founded in 1975 and helps support 192,000 acres of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area within the Jefferson National Forest. The area encompasses over 600 miles of hiking, mountain biking and horseback trails and includes 78 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Not only does the friends group help fund reconstruction projects, recruit volunteers for programs and assist campground hosts throughout the summer, the group operates three visitor centers on a full-time basis and assists with other visitor centers throughout the area.
Mount Rogers National Recreation Area as seen from Whitetop Mountain, VA
“We want visitors to have an enjoyable time here,” said friends group President Ed Piertzak. He explained that Friends of Mount Rogers is a passionate group of individuals who are proud to be helping the U.S. Forest Service and who have simply fallen in love with the area and enjoy educating those who come to visit.
Pietrzak explained that one of their primary visitor centers, Green Cove Station Visitor Center along the Virginia Creeper Trail, has two volunteers who have gone above and beyond to ensure that the center remains a compelling interpretive space as well as a functioning retail store. A passenger station and general store from the early 1900s, Green Cove Station still contains many of its original contents such as medicine bottles, bars of soap and spools of fabric from that time. Friends group volunteers Scott Traxler and Ruh Berg have spent countless hours cataloging these items and recently established an inventory of more than 400 pieces from the original store. “Scott and Ruh volunteered at Green Cove during the day, and continued to catalog historical items after hours, on their own time,” Pietrzak said.
Green Cove Station Visitor Center along the Virginia Creeper Trail
The dedication and commitment volunteers bring to places like Green Cove Station not only enhances the visitor experience but it maximizes the effectiveness of the forest service’s efforts. According to Area Ranger Beth Mertz, last year, the number of volunteer hours donated to the forest service was the equivalent to 15 full-time employees. This level of support ensures that the forest service can complete its projects and that visitors to Mount Rogers will keep coming back.
Celebrating 50 Years of Mount Rogers
This year, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area turns 50 and the forest service has planned a variety of events with the friends group to draw more visitors to the area. Some events include hikes to Mount Rogers, birding and nature walks and a kid’s fishing derby. These events and the year-long celebration are further enhanced by the many volunteers the friends group provides. To learn more about the anniversary celebration, visit the 50th anniversary website and, if you’re in the area, be sure to visit and maybe even lend a hand to support this vibrant friends group and the forest service.
To learn more about the Friends of Mount Rogers, visit them at friendsofmountrogers.org.
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