Ward, 15, has been volunteering at the Blue Ridge Parkway for three years, assisting the Parkway’s plant ecologist Chris Ulrey with monitoring of critically imperiled plant species. She has a deep love and respect for the wild places tucked among the Parkway’s craggy rock outcroppings.
“In my 21 years with the National Park Service, I have not encountered a young person that so inspired and filled me with hope about the future,” Ulrey said. “Ward’s assistance has been a welcome gift to the rare plant program on the Parkway, making it possible to complete the important monitoring work more safely and efficiently.”
The VIP (Volunteers-in-Parks) program was established under NPS Director George Hartzog 50 years ago as a formal opportunity for the public to share their gifts, talents and time with the agency in support of the NPS mission.