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By Nadia Werby
Special to The SUN
There are approximately 80 friendly volunteers who are the heart of the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA), which operates the interpretive program at Chimney Rock National Monument. While there are paid staff members, it’s the volunteers who interpret and maintain the site and perform most of the tasks that make the program work.
There are volunteer opportunities for nearly any skill or interest.
Tour guides, monitors and visitor center hosts at the site have direct contact with the public. These volunteers typically work one day each week. There are a number of less public positions and the amount of time a volunteer puts in at the site or behind the scenes is flexible. Unseen but deeply appreciated volunteer opportunities include grant writing, fundraising, posting flyers, clerical help, creating scrapbooks, scheduling volunteers or sharing in the camaraderie of the maintenance team.
Before the season opens, there is a free, two-day training program that includes a tour of the monument’s interpretive trails. New volunteers are encouraged to shadow a more experienced volunteer to augment the knowledge gained at training.
Each month, volunteers gather for a social event to share a meal and hear a speaker whose topic typically relates to archaeology. It’s a fun time to get to know each other. The public is welcome. Bring a dish to share and join in at the Ross Aragon Community Center Senior Dining Room beginning at 5:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month. Check the calendar to ensure there is not a schedule change. The volunteer organization provides coffee, water and table service.
At least twice a year, volunteers enjoy a field trip to another site of interest, often including a tour not available to the general public. These tours enhance their knowledge of the cultural history of the Four Corners area.
On April 19-20, there will be two full days (8 a.m-4:30 p.m.) of free training workshops to educate and train volunteers to assist in the operation of the Chimney Rock National Monument. Training will take place at the PLPOA Clubhouse at 230 Port Ave. Training includes a full slate of speakers. Lunch is provided both days. Registration is required by Friday, April 12. Call 731-7133 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or leave a message.
Without the volunteers’ skills and valuable time, it would be impossible to keep this local, non-profit, interpretive program viable and the gates to Chimney Rock open so, please, come join the team.
CRIA operates in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the San Juan National Forest. For program information, view the CRIA website at www.chimneyrockco.org.