Shenandoah National Park volunteer receives regional award

shen park volunteerAnnually, the National Park Service honors the efforts of exceptional volunteers.  Nominations are brought forward by employees in national parks across the country.   Each National Park Service Region selects a few nominees to be recognized.   One of this year’s nominees, Shenandoah National Park Volunteer John Marklin, was selected as the Northeast Regional George and Helen Hartzog Award.  Marklin, who won the award in the Individual Volunteer category, logged  over 4,000 hours of volunteer service, for serving as both peregrine falcon restoration site attendant and campground host.

“I am so humbled by this award,” said Marklin, on duty at the Lewis Mountain Campground. “It has been my privilege to serve with fantastic and dedicated Shenandoah National Park staff members over the years, and my wife and I look forward each year to our summers on Lewis Mountain.”

Marklin’s service as volunteer can be credited to his wife, Susan.  After the couple retired to West Virginia following John’s 30-year career with General Motors, Susan read a newspaper article about the importance of volunteering. It was Susan who encouraged John to explore the possibility of volunteering as a campground host at Shenandoah.

When Marklin first applied to the VIP (Volunteers-in-Park) program in the spring of 2003, he was told there were no campground host positions available in Shenandoah. Marklin was asked if he had any interest in volunteering with the Peregrine Restoration project instead. Thus began his 13-year relationship with Park Biologist Rolf Gubler and their successful efforts to reintroduce over 100 state-threatened peregrine falcons back into their historic range in the mountains of Virginia.

“Marklin was always enthusiastic about his work,” reported his supervisor on the Peregrine Project, Rolf Gubler, “and it showed when he educated visitors about the Recovery Program.  He would engage the public in lively discussions and offer stories, to include one about witnessing a young peregrine falcon taking prey in flight for the first time. When problems arose at the restoration site – mountain storms, high winds, nuisance bears, or problems with vultures or ravens, John often found creative ways to fix these problems and improve the efficiency of the operation. He often donated his own hardware and materials. Recently, he fixed the mounting mechanism on one of our spotting scopes.”

When the Marklins returned in the late spring of 2004, they took over as Campground Hosts at Lewis Mountain, and have been at that campground every summer since. Marklin was able to continue his work with Gubler and the peregrines during his time off from campground duties. Marklin attributed being able to do both duties as one of the motivations for his longevity of service, and says that working with Gubler and the falcons has been an unforgettable experience.

John Marklin was presented with his award during the Shenandoah National Park’s Volunteer Appreciation Event on August 6th.

For more information on volunteer opportunities in national parks, go to

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