Parks and People: A Great Combination

Did you know every state has at least one national park in it and that there are 401 total national parks  in America? July is National Parks and Recreation Month and is a great time to visit a park and volunteer in one. 

I’ve written about volunteer vacations before and some of the best are in parks across the country. Join the American Hiking Society for a week of building and maintaining trails with five to 14 other people in exciting and diverse locations like Idaho, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming. Crew requests for 2014 open this month.

Sierra Club Outings does service through its group and chapters as well as through volunteer vacations. With 65 chapters and more than 400 groups nationwide each contributing to local service projects, Group and Chapter Outings give an incalculable number of volunteer hours to parks and public lands. Many groups and chapters devote special trips solely to service projects.

Through the roughly 90 service trips each year, the National Outings program donates roughly 27,000 work hours to state and federal land agencies. Service trips range from helping with research projects at whale calving grounds in Maui to assisting with archaeological site restoration in New Mexico.

Usually, service trip participants team up with forest service rangers or park service personnel to restore wilderness areas, maintain trails, clean up trash and campsites, and remove non-native plants.

Wilderness Volunteers is another way to go. It organizes trip from March through October for a week at a time and 12 or fewer participants. Participants camp out in places from Hawaii to Maine and do a variety of projects, all for just $299.

The National Park Service itself also has volunteer opportunities by state or park. These can be ongoing like internships or assistantships or one time help for a special event.

When was the last time you visited a park? Was it clean and in good shape? You may have a volunteer to thank for that. With such vast areas to cover, a few park rangers can’t begin to make improvements to parks without the help of volunteers like you. It’s a beautiful way to spend a week and help others at the same time.


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