Have you wanted to organize a park upkeep day but don’t know where to start? Most parks rely on volunteers to complete projects not included in their annual maintenance budget. As a result, there’s often a backlog of maintenance needs like re-blazing trails, removing invasive species, and clearing brush.
Organizing a volunteer event is easier than you might think and a great way to get outside while giving back! If you love your park but don’t know where to start, check out our tips for organizing a local volunteer opportunity.
Contact your Park’s Conservancy Partner
It’s important to start maintenance projects with the guidance of a local ranger, horticulturist, or conservancy group. Even with the best of intentions, inexperienced volunteers can cause more damage than good if their work interferes with the local ecosystem or geology.
Nearly all parks have a conservancy partner with a list of priority projects and resources. You can find the name of your park’s conservancy partner on the park website or by stopping by the visitor center. Often, there’s already a network of nonprofits working together in the area that would love to have more volunteers or assist you with organizing your own group’s volunteer day.
For more ideas, check out these conservancy organizations and resources:
Get a Group of Volunteers Together
Start by asking park staff what kind of work needs to be done and how many people they can accommodate for a volunteer day. That way you can let your volunteers know what to expect. Most of the time, smaller groups are best (10-20 people) since parks can’t spare more than a couple of staff members to lead a volunteer group.
If you're wondering who to ask, you can gather volunteers from work, Facebook friend groups, hiking clubs, or your family. Many people would jump at the opportunity to volunteer at their local park but aren’t sure how to get involved. Once invited, people love volunteering outdoors and building a local community in a meaningful way.
When you organize your volunteer day, plan to end the work day early enough to clean up and stop by a local watering hole for a happy hour. This is a great way to celebrate your progress, share photos, and get to know each other better.
Create a Packing List
Here at The Landmark Project, we recently hosted a trail maintenance day where we built a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk through some wetlands. Before we set out, we created a project-specific packing list. As the organizers, we brought items like:
- Electric drills and extra batteries
- Shovels, loppers, hand saws
- Safety glasses, bug spray, sunscreens, extra gloves
- Water dispensers and water bottles
- Name tags and Sharpies
- Snack bars and fruit
- Hand sanitizer
- Bagged lunch
- Garbage bags
- First aid kit
Before your volunteer day, be sure to create a detailed packing list for you and your volunteers. That way you’re sure to make the most of your event. You can also check with park staff to see if they provide tools and personal safety equipment for volunteers.
Get Outside and Get Going!
Cleanup days are easier to organize than you might expect and you’ll likely be surprised by how many people want to join. Few things are as fun and fulfilling as getting outside and working together as a group on a project you might otherwise never try.
So what are you waiting for— Grab your gloves, favorite tee, and a few friends for a volunteer day at your local park!