We have written a lot about how busy the national parks are. That might scare you off from visiting. But, instead of heading to one as a visitor, have you ever considered volunteering at a national park?
Anyone who has ever volunteered at a local park knows it can be a lot of fun. Whether you’re helping on a landscaping project, cleaning up or helping to run an event, it’s great to get involved!
The national parks have a lot of ways you can volunteer, be helpful and involved. The national parks belong to the American people. When you work on them, you get to act as a steward of the land and participate in the wonderful project! It’s a great experience.
Your first step is determining what park is right for you and close to home. Then go to the Volunteer website and type in the name of the park. You can also use the information from the first website to reach out to the park directly. Speak to a representative to talk about possible volunteer opportunities.
Before you speak to a park representative, you should consider how you are willing to donate your time. Be ready to discuss your availability, including how many hours you could commit to and what time of day works well for you. If you want to volunteer with a friend or group of people, be sure to have the information for everyone and let the park know if there are children in your group.
If you volunteer for 250 hours, you get a free Volunteer Pass. The pass gets you admission into all national parks and public lands — even the more expensive ones.
If you’re interested in something a little more unstructured, there are drop-in events. These are usually trash clean-up events where you stop by a designated spot to say hello, grab a trash bag and then clean up for a while. It’s a nice, no-pressure, low-commitment way to give some time to the parks!
There are far more involved positions, like docents. Docents act almost like guides. You’ll get highly trained and educated in the park’s history, natural elements and offerings, so you can pass that information on to school groups and other visitors. You might also participate in leading hikes, train rides, historical reenactments or demonstrations. It’s a wonderful opportunity for people who love learning, talking to new people, like children and have a lot of time to spare.
You can also get volunteer positions in the visitor centers, as a park host, in public safety and so much more. While a lot of the volunteer work is about helping to keep the land beautiful, there is a whole variety of options. So, do a little research and call a park today; volunteering can be a great way to get into the parks and have a great time while giving back!