Fort Larned is in need of volunteers in order to keep the fort alive and accurately represented. According to Chief Park Ranger George Elmore:
“We have a staff of about fourteen people. That includes maintenance, interpretation, everything. So there’s no way a small staff could take care of these buildings or interpret them adequately to the public.”
They have volunteer opportunities in areas such as history interpreters, visitor services, general labor volunteers, and skilled maintenance volunteers. People can also help the fort in areas such as costume design and even blacksmithing.
Pete Bethke, the blacksmith at Fort Larned has been there a while and is concerned about the state of the fort and thinks volunteering would be a good way to save it.
“It’s a good way to keep the trade going. If someone stays here or wants to learn how to open their own shop. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. Eventually I’m going to get to the point where I can’t do it anymore. Hopefully they’ll be someone like I was to take over for the previous blacksmith.”
Jan Elder, another volunteer, references the importance of history in regards to volunteering.
“There’s so many little things as a volunteer you encounter. Meeting people, talking with people, and showing people what life was like back then. There’s parts of people’s lives we need to educate the young about.”
They also have an interpretive program where people can portray soldiers, civilians, and Indians. Some get to help in other areas like maintenance or park restoration. The interpretive program is critical for visitors to fully appreciate the fort. People from a variety of cultures interacted at Fort Larned and all along the Santa Fe Trail in the past. The plains environment influenced the lives of all who lived there.
To apply to be a volunteer, go online at https://www.nps.gov/fols/index.htm