A South African national park manager credits time he spent at Olympic National Park for operational changes he has made back home.
Gavin Shaw spent part of 2011 at Olympic as part of the National Park Service’s World Heritage Fellowship program. He is now manager of the Great Fish River Nature Reserve.
Shaw is one of 13 people who have served as fellows under the program run by the service’s Office of International Affairs. All participants were recruited for their leadership potential. The park service chooses candidates that could best utilize the training in the U.S. to have the greatest impact at sites in their home countries, according to a park service news release.
The program was developed to provide technical assistance in the management and conservation of World Heritage Sites in developing countries.
“The special areas that achieve this prestigious designation are not always able to manage, preserve, and protect these areas,” Stephen Morris, chief of the office, said in the news release.
The concept is fellows will receive real-world training and experiences in U.S. national parks that also have World Heritage Site designation. Fellows typically spend five to eight weeks learning park service management practices and working alongside park staffers in various disciplines, according to the news release.
Looking back on his experience, Shaw said he created the infrastructure to support a dispatch center for the reserve, which is home to the third-largest black rhino population in the world. New repeater sites and radios have dramatically improved communication and assisted rangers, who have arrested 18 people for illegal activities in the last 12 months, according to the news release.
Shaw also realized that his rangers needed better law enforcement training and refresher courses, so he created new training for reserve rangers based on the model he learned at Olympic.
“Ten rangers have been through the new training, along with two rangers who have achieved dog handler training certification,” Shaw said in the release.
“What makes Olympic National Park special cannot be written in a report or shown on a documentary,” he added. “It is in the snow in your boot and the cool air past your ears. It is in the fresh mountain mornings and the wide wooded backcountry. I can only hope that other managers from Africa get the honor as there is much for us to learn from the US National Park Service.”
Said Colin Smith, Olympic’s chief ranger, in the release: “I believe Gavin’s visit was a valuable experience for park employees as well. I learned a lot from Gavin, both personally and professionally. We had many discussions about managing people and operations with small amounts of funding and supplies. This has helped me prepare for the present era of shrinking budgets.”
Park operations update
Here are scheduled changes for Mount Rainier National Park facilities.
Longmire wilderness info center: It is scheduled to be open daily until Oct. 14, and then will be open Thursdays-Mondays from Oct. 17-31.
Paradise Inn: The inn was scheduled to close for the season on Monday, but it shut down Oct. 1 because of the federal government shutdown.
White River wilderness info center: It is scheduled to be open daily until Oct. 14.
Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center: The Paradise visitor center is to be open daily until Oct. 14, and then weekends only starting Oct. 19. The gift shop and deli will be on the same schedule.