We’re taking a moment in Conservation Week to acknowledge and celebrate some of our amazing volunteers and conservation heroes!
Jan Lowe is one example of the many people who give their time and energy to help Papatūānuku and the people of Aotearoa thrive.
At the age of 70, Jan is an avid tramper and has been a volunteer hut warden and camp host for the last 21 years.
French Ridge Hut in Mount Aspiring National Park was where Jan began her regular volunteering all those years ago. After this, cleaning Rakiura/Stewart Island huts for five years led to a regular stint as hut warden at Mueller Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. In 2007 Jan moved north to be the hut warden at Woolshed Creek Hut at Mount Somers and is still going strong there.
In recent years Jan has also volunteered as a camp host at Peel Forest and further south at Glencoe campsite.
“Jan is part of the wider Geraldine/Oamaru DOC team. It’s always a nice feeling when Jan is volunteering at one of our huts or campsites as you know the place is in good hands” says Chris Dyson, Heritage/Visitor and Community Supervisor at the Geraldine district office in South Canterbury.
“Being a hut warden has given me a strong sense of belonging to our beautiful back country, and I’ve met people of all ages from many backgrounds,” Jan says.
“I’ve enjoyed the interaction with trampers, both local and international, sharing knowledge about the wonderful backcountry and stunning huts.”
Jan has seen a few changes in the years that she has been volunteering as a hut warden. The introduction of the booking system has encouraged more families to venture to Woolshed Creek Hut as they know they have a guaranteed bed for everyone.
“It’s difficult to share any one part that makes being a volunteer so fulfilling but being on hand to help those in trouble and making lifelong friends have been highlights for me” Jan says.
Jan is booked to be a hut warden and camp host again for the coming season and Chris is looking forward to having her back on the team.
Hut wardens have a really important role in making sure our facilities and visitors are well looked after. They are integral to ensuring that people have a positive, enjoyable and safe time in nature.
Most DOC regions recruit camp hosts and hut wardens throughout winter in preparation for the summer programme. Before starting in their role, volunteers have a thorough induction, including covering the safety plan and the hut warden manual.
Repeat volunteers like Jan, who know the role and carry it out well are really appreciated. Chris comments:
“Jan has the perfect mix of backcountry skills and experience and has a very approachable and friendly personality. It’s easy to be a hut warden but not so easy to be a good hut warden, and Jan is definitely good at what she does and is an asset to our volunteer team”
Take a moment to celebrate and enjoy nature this Conservation Week, 4–12 September 2021. It can be as simple as stopping to listen to birdsong, walking with the whānau or finding a fun online conservation activity to try: www.doc.govt.nz/conservationweek