Volunteering in Parks

Volunteering in parks can be very rewarding for people who enjoy nature and working with or helping people. The United States is home to hundreds of national parks and historic sites that have various needs that can be met by volunteers. Donating your skills, knowledge, talents, and time to these natural and cultural environments is a worthwhile endeavor for the parks, visitors and you.

Getting Started
First, you need to determine which park or parks interest you. Since the parks are located in various geographical regions, they offer different outdoor environments. Volunteering in the parks can involve activities such as hiking mountainous land or sailing in calm lakes, so it’s a good idea to know a little bit about the parks and what volunteer opportunities are available.

You can go to www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm to find out about these various opportunities offered through the National Parks Service. The site will ask you to select a state, type in a zip code, or type the name of a specific park. Once you enter the information, a list of parks will appear. From this list, you can select a park. Once you click on the park of your choice, information concerning its volunteer opportunities will appear.

Another site that will help you find information about volunteering in parks is volunteer.gov/gov. Also, you can type your state’s name and “national parks” into a search engine to find ways to volunteer at a national state park near you. Once, you locate the website, you should look for the word “volunteer ” and click on it for information.

Volunteer Applications
The National Parks Service site provides a volunteer application, which can be filled out online, or it can be downloaded and filled out and mailed or faxed to the park or parks of your choice. Also, most state park websites provide the name of the volunteer coordinator or the contact person who can give you the information necessary for volunteering in parks. These individual state sites may have more specific information about the application process for becoming a park volunteer.

Working with People
Volunteering in parks is an opportunity to interact with people in different ways. Leading hikes and interpreting the park for visitors is one way to volunteer at some parks. Other parks need volunteers to greet visitors, give directions, and facilitate programs. If you enjoy acting or performing, some parks use reenactment to educate visitors about various time periods.

For those who love to camp, various parks offer hosting opportunities. Volunteers receive a free campsite and utilities when they commit to greeting and assisting campers and maintaining campgrounds. These volunteer positions can last between two to six months at some parks. These hosting positions involve a weekly time commitment.

Working behind the Scenes
Those familiar with identifying indigenous plants and animals may find opportunities to do this by volunteering in parks. Collecting data and doing field work help with park activity, too. For instance, one park needs help protecting and documenting turtles and turtle eggs, so volunteers must be able to spend evenings in the park or on beaches. Also, volunteering carpentry and engineering skills is useful for building fences, display units, and walking paths. If you are computer savvy, you may be able to lend your talents to create a website or maintain a park blog. Additionally, parks receive a lot of traffic, and with that traffic, maintenance must be performed, so picking up trash and weeding flowerbeds are useful ways to help in parks.

Your volunteer commitment may inspire others to partner with parks to preserve and maintain these historical, cultural, and natural environments. Whether you donate an hour of your time each week or commit to doing a volunteer project, working in a park offers the opportunity to enjoy nature while using your talents to advance the mission of the park. Moreover, by volunteering in parks, you have the potential to make the parks better for national and international visitors.