Volunteer Spotlight: Melanie Fries
As we celebrate our many volunteers during National Park Week, we are spotlighting one who has made her mark on Gateway Arch National Park.
Melanie Fries is a St. Louis transplant – she and her husband, Chris, retired to St. Louis in 2012 to be closer to family and because they loved the city as tourists. They became acclimated to living downtown by meeting their neighbors and participating in community-wide events. And quickly, they became smitten with a certain 630-foot monument in their backyard.
“Although the Gateway Arch belongs to all of us, I have always fondly thought of it as my yard – picking up stray pieces of trash, offering waste bags and bowls of water to dog walkers,” Melanie said.
A few years ago, they met Ranger Tony Gilpin at Gateway Arch Park Foundation’s Arch Bark event, where they signed up their dog, Buddy, to be a BARK Ranger. (Melanie and her family are also Gateway Arch Park Foundation members.)
“Buddy and I were happy to be involved with our Arch,” she said. “On our weekly walks we met visitors and answered a lot of questions about the park, pointed people toward the new Arch entrance, and asked visitors about their trip to St. Louis. We handed out bandanas to dog visitors we encountered and patches to those whose dogs are visiting more than one national park.”
Melanie’s involvement with the park expanded in the spring of 2019 when she became a volunteer in the Museum at the Gateway Arch. Her role shifts between working as greeter and serving as an usher for the Tucker Theater. She loves interacting with visitors by sharing what she knows about Lewis & Clark and westward expansion, and by discovering the different reasons they visit the Arch. She says volunteering is very fulfilling and encourages her friends and neighbors to do the same, as you can interact with so many people at whatever level you are most comfortable with.
“I love the Arch, and I have always been intrigued by how it represents exploration,” she said. “It’s such an inviting, historical and elegant national monument in our city,” she said.
“It is with a sense of pride, and certainly privilege, that I can be a part of the Gateway Arch experience.”
If you are interested in volunteering at Gateway Arch National Park, please visit the volunteer page on the park’s website.