Friday, November 21, 1997Volunteers once again proved extremely valuable to the operation of Montana's state park system in 1997. They donated 41,422 hours of time during the 1997 park season to assist with services at Montana's State Parks. The numbers of volunteers have increased from 800 in 1996 to just over 1,100 in 1997. That assistance has saved Fish, Wildlife & Parks funds equivalent to the wages of 20 full-time employees. According to Arnold Olsen, administrator of the State Parks Division in Helena, the accelerated use of volunteers in state parks has allowed the state to efficiently stretch dollars during tough economic times, while maintaining some important public services. The volunteers serve as campground hosts, visitor center attendants, naturalists and helpers on special projects. "Their individual contributions range from a few hours of assistance to several months of work," Olsen said, "and their support is greatly appreciated by both the visitors to the parks and park system employees." "This is a genuine reflection of the giving spirit of the American people," Olsen continued. "When we ask our volunteers why they donate time to the Montana park system, both residents and nonresidents respond with similar answers: 'Montana is such a beautiful, unique and historical place, we want to help keep it this way so future generations may enjoy it as much as we have.' That pretty much sums it up for all of us involved with state parks."