Park Volunteering

Giving to people or causes we love is intrinsically satisfying to many people. The sense of fulness, empowerment and ability to shape the world around us gives happiness. Helping out makes us feel that we are paying society back for the assistance we may have received along the way.

Selecting the area of the world you want to shape can be a challenge. There are many, many just and good causes and many worthy folks in need of assistance.

Perhaps you already have a life long avocation, but I am just getting to the point of selecting my giving corner.

For me, giving must not only provide real change to the world, give me a sense of fulfillment and empowerment, but it must also help me meet new people, learn new skills and provide new opportunities to enjoy life.

oldfaithfulOne of the areas I am looking into as a volunteer opportunity is in our country’s parks – whether they be national parks, state parks or county, city or private parks.

Parks have given me a lot of enjoyment over time. I’d like to make sure they are around for my grand children and great-grand children to also enjoy.

Why park volunteering?

Here are some reasons people volunteer in the parks:

  • Enjoyment of the park
  • Chance to meet new people
  • Learn new skills
  • Provide a sense of history to others or preserve and maintain the park.
  • Be active
  • See new things.
  • Build a family legacy by involving the entire family as a group.
  • Giving of yourself is more personal than writing a check out – you can see the results of your own giving.

What is park volunteer work?

Here are a few of the many types of work a volunteer can do in a park:

  • Greet visitors
  • Staff a visitor center
  • Garden or landscape
  • Campground hosts
  • Monitor and clean trails
  • Back office work – clerical, computer, etc.
  • Tours – such as historical building tors, guided nature walks, evening campfire programs
  • Living history demonstrations
  • Assist with special events or projects
  • Clean bathrooms
  • Artifact preservation assistance
  • Animal care
  • Give classes and programs for kids
  • Participate in scientific research projects
  • Do special projects designed around your talents and park needs
  • Structural work such as constructing and repairing new buildings, paths and other park facilities

Time commitments for park volunteers.

Many National parks allow you to volunteer for a season. Other parks can use ongoing regular volunteers. Many offer the opportunity to define and do special projects. To get a volunteer position in a popular park, you may need to make yourself available for the entire season to have a chance of getting a position. Some state, county or city parks allow you to set your own schedule, whether that be a once in a lifetime project or an hour a month.

Where you can volunteer.

There are opportunities at the national, state, county and city level to volunteer in parks. The national park system includes not only the parks, such as Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, but also national forests and national historic sites (such as the Truman Farm home).

How to volunteer for park duty.

To find opportunities for park volunteering you can call or write the parks themselves, or use one of several online sites that present opportunities and allow applications.

National parks

To volunteer for one of America’s National Parks (whether you are a citizen or not), use one of these sites to find opportunities, applications and information about volunteer positions, policies and conditions. is a portal for multiple government agencies (national, state, county and city) for volunteers to find opportunities to assist with America’s Natural and Cultural Resources. You can search by state using their map, by event using their calender or by their search tool – using one or more of the five selection criteria (keyword, state or city, agency, opportunity type or opportunities posted in the last 30 days).

The National Park Service web site on the Get Involved tab provides a search function to find opportunities in one of the more than 400 National parks. You can search by park, by state or zip code.

The Friends of the National Park Service have a Face book page that lists daily opportunities to volunteer.

State Parks

To find volunteering opportunities at a state park, you can start with the states park site by simply doing an internet search on yourdesiredstate state parks – for example, Arizona State Parks brought up The Arizona State Parks Home Page, from which you can select the volunteering tab.

County Parks

Now we are getting close to home and you probably have a specific park in mind for your volunteering experience. Call, write or search the web to find the volunteer coordinator for that park to discuss opportunities for your desires, talents and schedule.

Alternately, pull up possibilities in your internet browser with “county park volunteers” or “county park volunteers yourstate” or just type in the county name in which you want to volunteer. If you don’t know the name of the county, the US Census Bureau maintains a lookup site where you can look up the county name by zip code. Isn’t the internet great!

County parks can be an excellent opportunity for a deep and satisfying use of your volunteer talents. In my town, there is a riverfront park in a quaint town on the Missouri river. The park is being expanded and the main planners and doers will be citizen volunteers.

County parks can range from community playgrounds and athletic parks to living history demonstrations with buildings, events and interpretations.

City Parks

City parks range in size from the playground on the town square to historic places such as the Boston Comons  to living history towns to natural wonders such as Papago Park in Phoenix

Other ways to find opportunities.

Volunteer opportunities at all levels can be found on sites that match up volunteers to the opportunities. One such site is Volunteer Match, another is Idealist.

Volunteers may need to meet certain requirements.

Some positions require adults over age 18, but many are open to youths as well. Some may require medical examinations.

Some positions require more physical stamina than others as well. Others, where there may be access to expensive or sensitive items or interactions with children, may require a back ground check. How Stuff Works  explains this well – saying

“Depending on the position, you may be subject to a background check, including fingerprinting. Some parks have highly valuable historic artifacts — or mineral deposits — and some positions involve working with children or helping get medical assistance to stranded campers, so the background check is in everyone’s best interest.”

Some parks have programs for groups – including family groups. Your family could maintain a section of a park (similar to those litter control programs on the highway) or work together with the park service to design and implement a special one time project – or even just volunteer for a regular park activity together on the same day.

Who can volunteer?

Pretty much everyone can volunteer for some kind of park position – no matter your age, experience or physical or mental condition.

What if you can’t afford to volunteer?

There are actually paid jobs in the parks as well. This summer, I met two Xanterra employees who looked like they loved their jobs.

One was a retired computer programmer. He drove the historic yellow bus on the Lake Butte Sunset tour as well as giving a very informative walking tour of the Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

The other was a young college girl, working as a wrangler at the Roosevelt Corral. We met her on the covered wagon ride to the Western Cookout, but she also led horseback tours.

They both just seemed to love where they were and what they were doing! Xanterra runs the lodging and concessions for multiple parks and resorts. Apply with Xanterra here.

The National Park Service uses paid employees for a variety of situations. Check them out on this NPS site.

Have you worked or volunteered at a National or state park? I’d love to hear your story if so – it may help me decide on my best park volunteering opportunity!