By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Park staff and numerous SCA members, both past and present, turned out to hear SCA founder Liz Putnam talk about her experiences establishing the group, whose history has been intertwined with the park's since the SCA's founding 56 years ago.
The national park celebrates its 75th anniversary Saturday.
Putnam received a Presidential Citizens Medal — the second-highest civilian award in the United States — in 2010.
Speaking with SCA Northwest Vice President Jay Satz in front of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in the auditorium Tuesday, Putnam said the idea for the SCA started in a thesis paper she wrote while a senior at Vassar College in New York in 1955.
Putnam, now living in Vermont, said she was inspired to develop a way for volunteers to maintain the country's national parks after a Harper's magazine headline at the time declared that national parks should be closed because of being visited too much.
'Loved to death'
“[The parks] were being loved to death,” Putnam said.
Her work got the attention of Horace Albright, then director of the National Park Service, who asked her to visit four West Coast national parks, including Mount Rainier and Olympic, to gauge reception for her student volunteer idea.
“I said, 'Great,' not knowing where Rainier and Olympic were,” Putnam said with a laugh. “Ignorance sometimes can be good.”
Two years later in 1957, the park welcomed some of the SCA's first volunteers — two groups of high school boys sent to work in the Elwha and Hoh river valleys — and has hosted SCA crews every year since.
Olympic is the only national park in the country to hold that distinction.
On Saturday — the anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing a bill establishing Olympic National Park — the park will waive entrance fees, and park concessionaire Aramark will host a breakfast at Lake Crescent Lodge west of Port Angeles and a picnic lunch at Log Cabin Resort on East Beach Road, also off Highway 101.
Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum will hold a meet-and-greet session with the public at Lake Crescent Lodge from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The lodge also will display historical memorabilia and offer lavender lemonade and cake between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the Log Cabin Resort will host a free picnic lunch buffet.
Satz, a 27-year veteran of the SCA, said recent interest from young people wanting to volunteer has been as great as it's ever been.
The volunteering program has to turn away between three and four students for each open position.
“There is an incredible desire to serve,” Satz said.
Putnam echoed Satz's sentiment, adding that often the biggest barrier to accepting more students for volunteer positions is simply a lack of money.
“The interest is there, the desire is there, the need is there. It just needs the funding,” Putnam said.
As the SCA grows, Putnam said the most important thing about volunteering and conservation in general is working together to continue to support the country's national parks and the natural wonders they preserve.
“From wherever it is we come from, we have got to work together,” Putnam said.
“From the youngest ones to the old ones, wherever we live, do what you can for our national parks.”
For information about SCA, visit www.thesca.org.
For more information about the park's history, visit www.nps.gov/olym.
The public can add photos, videos or stories to the park's online memory book at www.olympicpark75th.com.
For a complete list of locations and times of numerous walks and evening talks at locations throughout ONP, visit http://tinyurl.com/onp-events.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.