Volunteering Can Be Very Rewarding

youtubeOften when one enters a Federal Park and or site visitor center, one of the first persons you encounter is a volunteer (VIP-Volunteer in Park).  They wear different uniforms for different agencies.  Some of these partners are:

 - National Parks Service, US Forest Service

 - US Army Corps of Engineers

 - Bureau of Land Management

 - US Fish and Wildlife Service

 - National Resource Conservation

 - US Bureau of Reclamation

If it wasn’t for the dedication and expertise of our park’s volunteers, the National Park Service and many of the federal resource and wildlife department properties would not be able to provide the experience the American public have grown to expect.

Our country’s National Parks have more than 320,000 volunteers working and providing a variety of services for the visitors throughout the year.  This is over 7 million hours, estimated $116 saved for the taxpayer, that are generously provided by their work and dedication.  In comparison, there are only 25,000 uniformed park rangers working in these park properties alongside many of these volunteers.

Volunteers come from all facets of life and bring this experience with them to the parks. The positions range from campground hosts to research technicians assisting in research on glacier decline or grizzly bear habitat.  The different park properties, including the territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean, have numerous varieties of needs for volunteers to fill. 

If one wishes to work in a specific park, just stop in and visit with one of the staff members to learn whom to contact about a future volunteer opportunity.  You will find that this inquiry is very beneficial in applying for a future position as a volunteer. 

Many individuals are looking to enrich their lives through volunteerism. Whether you are an outdoors type of person, a retiree or empty nester looking for your next great adventure you might find this a great opportunity.  There are many opportunities also available to the college student looking at enriching their resume.

If you are unsure of where the different park sites are, use the below link to locate any of the NPS properties you might be interested in.

Find your park by visiting this link.

Some positions are specialized and require particular talents, knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as a background check. Other positions only require a desire and willingness to volunteer. Individuals under the age of 18 must have written consent of the parent or legal guardian before they may volunteer.

There are many advantages available for the volunteer working in these varied park properties.  Being able to live within a park is often one the most important advantages as is working a shortened week.  Often this is a 20 to 32-hour work week.  Some of these locations will pay a small stipend to their volunteers.  Another advantage is an annual volunteer pass.  For volunteering 250 or more hours, one is available for the volunteer from many of the parks.

More information on volunteering in the parks.

There are many opportunities afforded to volunteers for research projects as well in their chosen professional skills whether it is at a park for historical preservation or using their law enforcement skills in investigations and/or wildlife control and protection.

Volunteering in the Citizen Science program can be equally rewarding for all ages and with no prior scientific experience or training.  This work often involves collecting scientific data that is related to ongoing scientific projects such as wolf and grizzly data gathering, often out in the field.  The takeaway is the increased awareness in how the different parks enhance our lives and future generations.

More information on Citizen Scientists in the Park.

Many areas have wonderful opportunities to spend volunteer time outdoors, enjoying the parks and interacting with visitors on the numerous bike paths found in many of our park lands. While their visible roles are to assist and answer questions, they are there to provide emergency assistance as well as being a steward of the resources.

Volunteers in the Park are often identified as Camp Ground Hosts. There is more to these roles than the visitor often realizes such as being familiar with the parks and their many recreational opportunities.  Volunteers often fill the role as an interpretive ranger as well as providing scheduled hikes with interpretation of the resource.  They may also prepare programs at identified locations and amphitheaters for topics such as night sky astronomy and docents for historical resources in historical buildings and locations.

Many parks have volunteers that are Artists in Residence, available for those with skills to share with the visitors.  These positions can be for short and long periods during the different seasons.  Inquiring directly to the individual parks will provide you information on their requirements and what is available.

More information on volunteering for Artists in the Park.

Housing is sometimes available in some parks as some are quite isolated.  Depending on the park, accommodations can range from fully furnished houses to volunteer villages, dorms, bunkhouses or recreational vehicle sites.  It is not unusual for many of the volunteers to travel between the parks as they volunteer at multiple parks during a single year.

One thing is guaranteed, volunteering can be fun and a life changing experience for you and the visitors.  Often times you will be rewarded with meeting lifelong friends that have been found by working in our nation’s parks and wildlife preserves.



Bryan Appleby
Author: Bryan ApplebyEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
From the very beginning, at the age of 13, when Bryan planned and left on a solo bicycle trip around the western half of his native state of Kansas, he has been traveling somewhere, often in remote locations. He is known for his extreme boondocking, often for periods up to 8 weeks away from civilization and any resupplies. Bryan has more than 4,000+ consecutive nights (12 years with only 64 of those nights in campgrounds) while full timing. The outdoors has been an emphasis on this father & grandfather, taking him to occupations as a State Trooper and a National Park Ranger. Now, as a retired State Trooper and again working as a seasonal National Park Ranger, Bryan has been exploring America with his RV, kayaks and motorcycles, recording all of these adventures with pen and his camera.

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