October 1, 2013

Guest Post: 5 Great Volunteer Opportunities at the Parks

Today I’m really delighted to introduce James Sermons from the National Park Foundation as MDG’s first ever guest blogger.

Giving back is an enriching experience, and volunteering in a national park is a great way to help our country’s treasured places that face continuing budget cuts. While many retirees and students participate in the National Park System's official volunteering program, there are many additional opportunities for individuals of all ages and skill levels. And not all volunteer positions require significant commitment or extensive labor. Anyone with a willingness to assist and a positive attitude can benefit the parks and serve as a role model for the next generation. 

Almost all national parks have a visitor center that serves as a welcoming place for people to ask general questions, become familiar with the rules and regulations of the park and learn the history of the area. Visitor Center Volunteers greet guests, answer general questions, and help set up educational exhibits. A great experience for teens and very social people, this position offers interpersonal opportunities and personal contact. 

For experienced RV-ers or campers that have spent summers camping or hiking in national parks, becoming a Campground Host is a fun volunteer opportunity that definitely has its perks. Campground Hosts can get free hook-up in the park in exchange for completing general maintenance and cleaning duties as well as offering a friendly and personable face to visitors. This position requires minor record keeping and some physical demands.

For nature buffs and people who enjoy more solitude, Trail Maintenance and Waterway Maintenance volunteer positions would likely be good fits. These positions require little, if any long-term commitment and many are single day activities. Tasked with the responsibility of keeping trails and waterways clean and well maintained, these positions are great family, corporate and/or team-building events and require little training. These types of volunteer events teach the importance of reusing, recycling, and proper waste removal in a fun, engaging and hands-on environment. 

For lifeguards or individuals with water safety knowledge, many of the national parks located in coastal areas or near large lakes are often seeking volunteers to present water safety classes to children, teens and visitors. This position can save a life and is a valuable resource for visitors.

Hunters, birders, and experienced hikers are always needed in our national parks to volunteer as a Census Taker or Surveyor. While this position's exact title can vary depending on the location, it is vitally important in every national park. These volunteers hike the trails, walk through lush meadows, and kayak quiet rivers in search of individual species to help gauge local populations and lend assistance to many struggling species. Attention to detail and accurate record-keeping is a plus for individuals applying for this position, as well as patience and determination.

Each and every national park offers opportunities for those interested in supporting our national treasures. For more information about volunteer opportunities in the parks and additional ways to show your support, visit the National Park Foundation website.

* Thanks again to James Sermons for providing some wonderful tips about volunteering in our national parks.

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