Cheri Yost was named Volunteer of the Year for the Western District of the park in 2012. Cheri has been a volunteer with the park for two years and during that time she has accomplished much! Cheri helped get the new Trails & Rails program on board the Capitol Limited in 2012. Cheri edited and organized the resource guide for the program, trained volunteers, completed several trial runs and guided the program through a successful first season. A second contribution Cheri made to the park was her design and layout work for the Paw Paw Tunnel Hill Trail waysides. Cheri contributed many hours to seeing this project go from concept to in ground installation. Cheri re-designed the Paw Paw Tunnel site bulletin, assisted with numerous education programs at Cumberland, and participated in the Ferguson Foundation Potomac River Clean-Up at Canal Place. Prior to volunteering at the Canal Cheri worked at the NPS Research Learning Center at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Cheri now resides in La Vale, Maryland and works for the NPS National Capital Region Office in DC. 

Cheri took time out of her busy schedule to answer questions about the Trails and Rails program and why she volunteers at the C&O Canal.

What inspired you to volunteer at the C&O Canal?

My family and I moved to the area two years ago, and I thought it would be a good way to learn about my new home. I sent in my application through volunteer.gov and Ranger Rita Knox at Cumberland contacted me and got me acquainted with the park. 

Tell me about the Trails and Rails Program. How does it work? 

The C&O Canal Trails and Rails Program is an interpretive program aboard Amtrak’s Capitol Limited which runs from Chicago to DC on the historic route of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. C&O Canal Volunteers board the train in Cumberland and ride the upper level of the Sightseer Lounge all of the way to Washington DC. The program engages passengers on board where they learn about the rich history of the canal, railroad, and the Potomac River Valley. 

The National Trails and Rails Program is a partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service administered from Texas A&M University. A year ago we began the program on the Capitol Limited here at the C&O Canal and in its initial season the program proved to be very successful.

What is your favorite aspect about the program? 

The people! The trails and rails program is a great opportunity to meet so many people from all over the world. The passengers come from different backgrounds and ride Amtrak for many different reasons. Some passengers may be on business, others may be tourists. There are children on board as well as seniors. Our interpretive program may just be a small snippet of their journey that might take two or three weeks but it’s is fun to be a part of their journey. It’s not just the passengers on the trains but also our volunteers. It’s so invigorating to meet other volunteers in the program and share stories with them. 

What do you look for in Trails and Rails volunteers?

We look for people with flexibility and stamina. It takes flexibility because the train is not always on schedule and the audience changes from one minute to the next. It takes a real nimble interpreter to engage the passenger audience and keep their interest. Also, you’ve got to have stamina in order to engage passengers for hours on end in a long narrow lounge car traveling at 60 mph! 

The interpretive program operates on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited Friday and Saturday during the summer months between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. The round-trip takes about 12 hours. For more information on the program contact Ranger Rita Knox at Rita_Knox@nps.gov or visit our volunteers-in-parks website www.chohvip.org