In an effort to clean up after a busy tourist season, the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is hosting a special National Public Lands Day volunteer event on Saturday, October 1, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
According to AmeriCorps member Taryn Eveland, the state park is looking for 50 volunteers over the age of 15 who can complete the classic cave tour and are passionate about preserving the natural resources of the caverns for future generations.
"Even though we try to minimize the unnatural substances that come into the cave, like foods, gum, and tobacco products, it is impossible to keep everything out. When people enter the cave, we are unintentionally shedding lint from our clothes, bringing in dirt and dust that contain microbes and spores, and shedding hair, and skin cells all of which can degrade and alter the delicate ecosystem," Eveland said.
In information taken from the Wind Cave National Park Management Plan, Eveland said spores shed by visitors, along with artificial light, cause algal growths. Eveland added that algal growths and lint fibers affect cave life by providing unnatural carbon and nitrogen sources for their consumption, which supports unnaturally high population levels and introduces non-native species. According to the management plan, synthetic fibers will remain in the cave longer and can become incorporated into cave growth and start to dissolve cave surfaces and minerals.
To mitigate the effects and follow the FWP mission statement of providing for the stewardship of public lands, Eveland said the park is inviting the public to help clean up the cave.
"We model our cave cleaning efforts after Great Basin National Park's Lehman Caves. This involves using a dilute bleach solution to kill algae growth, sweeping the stairs, using tweezers to remove fibers and hairs, and scrubbing more delicate formations with toothbrushes. All lint and dust removed is packed out," Eveland said.
Those interested must RSVP to Eveland at [email protected]. A long sleeve shirt, long pants, headlamp, and face mask are required.
The Wind Cave National Park Management Plan can be found at http://npshistory.com/publications/wica/cave-karst-rmp-2007.pdf)