Dnpld-group-photo_2016-9-24onning work gloves and grabbing long-handled shovels, National Public Lands Day volunteers Saturday, dug in, leveling soil around the newly-constructed accessibility ramp outside the Lehman Caves Visitor Center in Great Basin National Park.

Park Superintendent Steve Mietz credited everyone for a job well done.

“They accomplished everything we set out to do,” he said. “Now we can lay down the flagstones and put the finishing touches on the landscaping.”

More than 50 people from in and around White Pine County, and a Salt Lake City family returning from southern California, participated in the event, either by working on the project, sharing in an educational activity, or both.

The Jenkins family spent the previous night in Ely specifically to visit the park and tour Lehman Caves. Their fourth-grade children participated in the Every Kid in a Park Program.

“We did not know that public lands day was today at the park,” said Andrea Jenkins, eyes focused on the mountain king snake wrapping itself around nine-year-old son, Spencer’s arm. “Thank you for scheduling it when we could participate.”

“We use snakes to educate people about reptiles and the important role they play in our environment,” explained Bryan Hamilton, the park’s wildlife biologist.

Asked what to do if one stumbles across a snake in the outdoors, he replied, “Give them a little distance.”

Rounding out the mostly hands-on activities were bats, flint-knapping, firefighting, and spinning the Leave No Trace prize wheel, all with a message about responsible land stewardship.

The day concluded with hot dogs and hamburgers, after which everyone gathered for a group photograph before boarding the bus back to Ely.

National Public Lands Day is spearheaded each year by the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation.  Partnering locally with the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park Service this year were Anderson’s Foodtown, Economy Drug, Ely Outdoor Enthusiasts, Ely Times, GRP Pan, LLC, High Desert Advocate, KDSS 92.7 FM, KGHM, Ridley’s Family Market and White Pine County School District.