Valdosta Daily Times

Features

July 7, 2013

Volunteering in America’s National Parks

- — Recent retirement may be causing you to search for an activity to occupy your newly discovered leisure. Or, perhaps, you aren’t quite there yet, but retirement is fast approaching and you’re unsure how you will fill the spare hours.  

Maybe you are a teacher interested in a summer free of housework, yard work, fix-it projects, and listening to your in-laws talk about their health problems. You want an activity that is enjoyable, worthwhile, and personally rewarding.

If so, you might want to consider volunteering at one of the America’s 401 national park units.

The National Park Service (NPS) actively recruits volunteers to assist in necessary aspects of operating its parks, monuments, seashores, battlefields, and more. Volunteers have become increasingly important in light of tight budgets faced by our country’s national park units. Whether you are handy at fixing things, friendly and outgoing with strangers, or just enjoy the great outdoors, the National Park Service almost certainly has a place for you as a volunteer.

The need for volunteers in our national parks is sufficiently important that the National Parks Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program was enacted in 1970 by Congress in order to facilitate volunteer assistance. Each year, tens of thousands of individuals volunteer millions of hours of their time while working side-by-side with National Park Service employees. Volunteers staff campgrounds, maintain trails, provide information in the visitor centers, and offer natural history programs for visitors. Many volunteers already live nearby a park and work only a few hours a week. Others volunteer for special events at nearby parks. Many volunteers commit to several months of what is essentially full-time employment.

How about a summer in Yellowstone, America’s first national park? This sprawling park with geysers, mud pots, and canyons is a great place to spend two or three months. Wouldn’t it be great to picnic near Lower Yellowstone Falls on your day off? Perhaps you would enjoy a summer serving as campground host. Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument was looking for a volunteer campground host earlier this year. The position was to last from late May through September. This seems an excellent time to escape the heat and humidity of South Georgia.

Oregon Caves National Monument this spring listed an opening for a youth and education outreach assistant. Curecanti National Recreation Area in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains posted six openings for campground hosts. Natural Bridges National Monument in southeastern Utah was looking for a volunteer to help staff the visitor center, patrol the trails, and assist in the monument’s small campground. The night skies in this monument can be spectacular. These are just a few of the types of opportunities that are available for individuals interested in becoming national park volunteers.

Some national park units offer housing — often quite modest — for volunteers willing to stay the season. Other parks offer free RV sites with hookups. In either case, the park generally expects a volunteer to work 32 hours per week. Because many parks don’t have available housing, the chance of landing a volunteer position improves for those who have an RV in which to live. Still, opportunities are available for individuals who require temporary housing. For example, limited volunteer housing is available in Alaska’s Denali National Park during summers. For the hardy and really adventurous, projects are available in Denali during the winter months when park housing is easier to come by.

So where do you begin? First, consider areas of the USA in which you would prefer to work. Perhaps you need some relief from our humidity and would like to spend several months in the Southwest. If so, check for openings at the many parks in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, or parts of Texas. Maybe you prefer a summer in the Northwest, in which case you should check for opportunities at parks in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or Montana. A summer in Montana’s Glacier National Park would be something to remember. Or maybe you yearn only to spend several months in Yellowstone. Why not take the plunge and look into volunteering in an Alaska park?

If you are interested in volunteering during the winter months check for opportunities in Florida, Texas, or Arizona. Some individuals and couples essentially become full-time volunteers by moving among multiple parks throughout the year, often taking several weeks off to enjoy their travel between parks.

Of course, these are volunteer positions, so don’t expect to earn an income. On the positive side, you aren’t likely to spend much money. The things you will most treasure from a national park volunteer experience — new acquaintances, wildlife in its natural habitat, sparkling night skies, a sense of performing a worthwhile service — don’t cost anything. It’s a worthwhile tradeoff.

Although it is a little late to consider volunteering for the current summer, it is not too early to think about next summer. Or, perhaps, the upcoming fall when you may find a spot at a park like Big Bend National Park, one of our favorites.

Additional information about volunteering in America’s national parks is available at http://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/upload/vip_brochure.pdf.  A listing of volunteer openings by park unit or by state is available at http://www.nps.gov/gettinginvolved/volunteer/opportunities.htm. A map with locations of all National Park Service units is available at http://hfc.nps.gov/carto/PDF/NPSmap2.pdf.  Volunteer postings are not always complete or up-to-date so it may be wise to contact individual parks and inquire about volunteer opportunities. Most listings will appear several months prior to a park’s prime season. Also, check the websites of individual parks in which you are interested. Go to the site index and look for “volunteer” under “Support your park.” You will also find contact information for the park.  

David and Kay Scott are authors of “Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges” (Globe Pequot). They reside in Valdosta.

1
Text Only
Features
  • bicycle safety.jpg SGMC, Kohl’s to host Bike Smart safety event

    SGMC, Kohl’s Department Store, Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department and Safe Kids Lowndes County will host Bike Smart!

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140410-AR-Wake_Compound001.jpg Bringing wakeboards to Lowndes

    In college, many dream of their future career paths and, while some may seem far fetched, some people are able to make theirs a reality. Luke Tilt and Quinn Silvernale were able to do just that.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140401-Ballet003.jpg Beautiful Dancers

    The Ballet School in Valdosta offers children with special needs the chance to live out their dreams of being a dancer. For many, this may have seemed like a far fetched dream given their physical limitations, but as the Ballet School proves, there is no such thing as a physical limitation.

    April 13, 2014 5 Photos

  • Dido and Aeneas 1.jpg VSU Opera, Chamber Singers Present ‘Dido and Aeneas’ April 19-20

    The Valdosta State University Department of Music will present “Dido and Aeneas” at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 19, and 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 20, in the West Hall Rotunda. Seating is limited to 100 people per performance.

    April 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Film Review Captain A_Rich copy.jpg A salute to ‘Captain America’

    Our reviewer looks at "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," 'The Grand Budapest hotel' and "Bad Words."

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • easter eggs.jpg VLPRA hosts ‘Egg-ceptional Egg Hunt’ Saturday

    Easter egg hunts are an old tradition, but this Saturday, the Therapeutic Division of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks & Recreation Authority is putting a new spin on it.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • wanee1.jpg Wanee Festival 2014

    For a decade, the Allman Brothers have made it an annual tradition to settle along the Suwannee River and jam with some friends and fellow musicians. And music fans from near and far can come watch, listen and dance.

    April 6, 2014 3 Photos

  • vhsart5.jpg MUST RUN All winners in the VHS art show

    Judging the Valdosta High School art show is no easy feat.

    April 6, 2014 5 Photos

  • Film Review Noah_Rich copy.jpg ‘Noah’ fails to stay afloat

    Our reviewer looks at the movies "Noah" and "Sabotage."

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • flag.jpg Stand Up America Rally this weekend

    It’s not a political rally, but rather a gathering this weekend to “stand up and say we want America back.”

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

What you think about school and workplace rules about Facebook friends?

There have to be rules.
No need for rules, just use common sense.
If people want to be friends, what is the big deal?
Nobody uses Facebook anymore.
     View Results