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How to Volunteer at State Parks

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter January Outdoor Living Newsletter
Young volunteers taking a break
Volunteering at State Parks can be a meaningful experience

The U.S. State Parks are perhaps some of the most significant contributions that America has made to the world. Through the State Parks, we present to the world the loveliness of our lands and the complexity of our heritage and save them for the present and future generations to enjoy.

Sadly, inasmuch as the State Parks are inherently important to the identity of Americans as a people, the task of taking care of them is enormous. Maintaining and protecting these State Parks requires a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of people power. State governments unfortunately don't always have the funds to allocate to the care and preservation of these State Parks, especially in times of economic crisis.

This is why it is essential that you consider becoming a volunteer and devote time to working at a State Park if you can. Not only will you be doing your civic duty in preserving and protecting the treasures contained within these State Parks, but you will also get a sense of fulfillment as well as attain a few benefits that you may find useful in other aspects of your life.

The Role of State Park Volunteers

State Park volunteers are generally called Volunteers-in-Park or VIPs. If you choose to become a VIP, what tasks will you be expected to fulfill? Volunteer positions in State Parks are varied. Depending on the specific needs of the State Park where you choose to give your time, you can work in the front lines or behind the scenes in taking care of the park.

Among the things you may be called upon to do as a VIP are:

  • Manning the information desk and answering visitor questions.
  • Patrolling the park on horseback or using a bicycle.
  • Acting as a lifeguard at a beach under the jurisdiction of a State Park.
  • Participating in presentations given at the State Park, sometimes in costume.
  • Taking care of animals and plants in the State Park.
  • Working as a campground host.
  • Working as a tour guide.
  • Designing and maintaining the State Park's website and promotional materials.
  • Doing maintenance work such as cleaning, preserving hiking trails, repairing fences, repainting buildings.

What tasks you will perform when you become a VIP will ultimately depend on what the State Park needs are and on the skills you possess.

The Benefits of Becoming a VIP

If you decide to volunteer your time and effort and become a State Park VIP, what can you expect to get in return? VIPs are not given any monetary compensation; they are volunteers, after all. However, the volunteer coordinators or managers in the State Park you choose to work at may give you some token of appreciation in return for the services you have rendered. This token can be something simple, such as a coffee mug or a T-shirt. It can be something like a free annual pass to all the parks maintained by the state,free accommodation (RV site or tent site) at the campgrounds inside the State Park when you go camping, discounted entry fees, or free usage of the State Park's facilities.

Aside from these material tokens, you can also gain skills that you can use in your career, in your business, or in other areas of your life. You can put your volunteering experience as an entry in your resume to impress would-be employers and job headhunters. Additionally, you can build a wide network of contacts among the people you meet and work with.

But perhaps the most important benefit that you will get from working as a State Park VIP is the fact that you have fulfilled your civic obligation to protect and preserve the State Parks. You can rest on the assurance that because of your efforts, the State Parks will remain intact and will continue to be enjoyed by visitors not just from the U.S. but also from other parts of the world, as well as by future generations.

How to Become a VIP

Now that you know what becoming a VIP entails and what benefits you can enjoy from being one, how then do you sign up and become a State Park volunteer? State governments may vary when it comes to their State Park volunteer application process, but generally it goes this way :

  1. Go to the official website of the State Park you want to volunteer at if you already have a park in mind. There should be a section there on volunteering, where you can get more information and download the volunteer application form.
  2. If you don't have a particular State Park in mind yet or need help in deciding where to volunteer, you can go to your state government's official website and find the section devoted to your state's parks. Usually you can download the volunteer application form from there as well.
  3. Another website you can visit when searching for volunteer positions at State Parks is Volunteer.gov.
  4. Fill up the application form you have downloaded and comply with whatever requirements stated on the form. Afterwards, submit your completed application form to the volunteer coordinators or managers of the State Park you have chosen through email, postal or fax.

The U.S. State Parks are important representations of the country's extraordinary natural beauty, colorful history, and rich culture. It is our duty to help in maintaining and preserving these State Parks for future generations to enjoy, and we can fulfill this duty by volunteering our time and effort to working at the State Parks.

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