Go Volunteer At National Parks
If you love visiting America’s National Parks … you’ll probably enjoy volunteering at them too! The NPS always needs volunteers but it is even more important during those periods of government shutdowns when restroom cleaning and trash collection is not provided by government staff members. No matter when you want to donate some of your time, the National Park Service has many volunteer opportunities … so … what do you like to do? Let’s play 20 Questions (give or take a few 🤣).
Why Volunteer At A National Park?
Find the best fitting volunteer opportunity by asking yourself a few questions:
- Which National Parks would I like to help?
- Do I want to travel from state to state as a volunteer and work at numerous parks?
- How much time do I have to devote to the program?
- Do I want to help with a one-time service project or an on-going commitment?
- Do I like being outdoors or would I prefer volunteering inside?
- Do I want to volunteer as an individual or with an organized group?
- Do I have written consent of the parent or legal guardian for each child under the age of 18 I am bringing in my volunteer group?
- Am I looking for family volunteer opportunities?
- Do I want to stay behind the scenes or would I like volunteering on the front line?
- Do I have special skills I want to contribute? Am I willing to demonstrate particular talents, knowledge, skills, abilities and possibly complete a background check prior to volunteering?
- Am I interested in positions that allow volunteers to work with wildlife, flora and fauna or do I just want to do a little park cleanup volunteering near me?
- Do I want my volunteer time to “pay” me with a Volunteer Pass or free housing?
Which National Park Service Volunteer Programs Are Available?
Now that you have a good idea about your motivation for volunteering and the location where you want to donate your time, you need to determine which programs are available and who you should contact about becoming a volunteer. Here are the most common ways people volunteer in National Parks.
Volunteer Events Programs
Volunteer Events are “park cleanup volunteer near me” type of events. These events may include trash collection, removal of invasive plants, trail cleanup and more. You can find events and search by date, park, state and type of event by visiting the National Park Service Volunteer Events section of their website.
If you are volunteering to help clean up your favorite National Park, you may want to use an Extra Long Trash Picker to pick up trash quickly, efficiently, and without breaking your back!
How To Volunteer At National Parks During Government Shutdowns
Special Note: During times of government shutdowns, some National Parks may close their gates so no entry is allowed but others may leave entry gates open but no services are provided. If you are interested in a park cleanup type of volunteer opportunity at a National Park that is still allowing entry during a time of government shutdown, you will probably need to volunteer with a community group or possibly as an individual private citizen … here’s why. Volunteers sign extensive liability waivers with the federal government when they volunteer with a formal group … because of liability issues, certain government procedures may not allow official volunteers to work as Public Lands volunteers during a government shutdown. If that is the case, volunteers do their work as normal private Good Samaritan citizens rather than as a volunteer associated with a formal volunteer group.
If you are using the facilities of a National Park during a government shutdown, you can contribute to the volunteer efforts by being responsible for your own trash … pack it in and pack it out … and while you are at it … pick up other trash nearby from other people. That’s just being a cool camper 😎 🤜🤛 *fist bump*
Groups To Join To Volunteer At Public Lands
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part of volunteering! Here are a few organizations that can get you on the right path to volunteer with the National Parks or other Public Lands. How to volunteer at a National Park does not necessarily mean you have to volunteer directly with governmental agencies. There are “partner organizations” and “friends organizations” that have formal programs for volunteering. Most Public Lands have a cooperating agency and a friends group … some have more than one. Here are some options for volunteering at National Parks and other Public Lands with a formal group:
- National Park Service Volunteer With Us
- The Trust For Public Land Volunteering
- Conservation Legacy
- National Park Foundation Friends Alliance
- Student Conservation Association
- VolunteerMatch The Trust For Public Land
The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s National Parks … and … one way to support their efforts is by purchasing their official products. The calendars they produce will take your breath away and will inspire you to pack your bags for your next National Park visit! The National Park Foundation Wall Calendar is no exception … It is gorgeous!
NPS Community Volunteer Ambassadors Program
Community Volunteer Ambassadors is a National Park Service program for recent high school and college graduates that spend one year in National Park sites across the country focusing on expanding service-learning and volunteer opportunities. Find more information at the Community Volunteer Ambassador section of the NPS website.
National Park Service Artist-In-Residence Program
Artist-In-Residence is a NPS program for visual artists, writers, musicians, and other creative media artists. It provides rare opportunities for the artists to be inspired by diverse natural and cultural settings where they can create works of art. Residencies usually last 2 – 4 weeks and normally include lodging. Find more information on the National Park Service Artist-In-Residence webpage.
National Park Service Citizen Science Program
Citizen Science is a National Park Service program for people of all ages and all levels of scientific training … including NONE! Volunteers take part in collecting scientific data that is related to issues faced by the Parks. They might be asked to search for moths and butterflies, record the blooming dates of local plants, observe mountain goats and more! Find more information on the National Park Service Citizen Science webpage.
NPS Girl Scout Ranger Program
The Girl Scout Ranger Program is a partnership program between the National Park Service and the Girl Scouts Of The United States Of America. It allows the Scouts to participate in educational and service projects to earn certificates and patches. Find more information at the National Park Service Girl Scout Ranger Program webpage.
NPS Programs For Boy Scouts
Programs For Boy Scouts is a National Park Service program that includes the Scout Ranger Program allowing the Scouts to participate in a volunteer service project or educational program to earn certificates and patches. The Parks With Boy Scout Opportunities is for individual parks offering trails, various programs or patch programs and the Eagle Scout Certificate Of Recognition program recognizes Eagle Scouts with a certificate. Find more information on the National Park Service Programs For Boy Scouts webpage.
NPS International Volunteers Program
NPS International Volunteers is an application-based National Park Service program that allows college or university students from other countries to compete for the opportunity to volunteer with the U.S. National Park Service. Find more information at the National Park Service International Volunteers webpage.
National Park Volunteer Camp Host Program
Become a National Park volunteer camp host by checking the individual site of the National Park where you want to be a volunteer camp host. This program is not age restricted but it is considered by the public to be one of those “senior” volunteer opportunities National Parks offer that include free RV parking as a perk. It is a great prospect for full time RVers (many of whom are retired hence the “senior” association by the public) who enjoy spending a lot of time inside the National Parks. I have met camp hosts who return to the same National Park year after year and I’m told that finding an opening can be challenging for new camp hosts. Find more information on the NPS National Park Volunteer Camp Host Program webpage.
Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program
NPS VIP (Volunteers-In-Parks) is a National Park Service-wide program. Through this program, individuals help protect the treasures in America’s National Parks as well as centers like the Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC). Find more information on the National Park Service Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program webpage.
NPS Volunteer News
You can find the latest National Park Service news with NPS volunteer information on the National Park Service website. Find more information in the National Park Service Volunteer News section of their website.
Volunteers with 250 service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program are eligible to receive a Volunteer Pass for free! If your volunteer service does not meet the 250 hour level, you may want to consider getting one of the other passes available through The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series … they include: Annual Pass, Annual 4th Grade Pass, Senior Pass, Access Pass and the Volunteer Pass.
Will You Have To Wear A National Park Service Volunteer Uniform?
There are National Park Service jobs that are paid and unpaid. Some of the unpaid positions require wearing a uniform. Personally, I love uniforms! I attended a high school where I wore a white shirt and plaid skirt to class which means I did not have to stand in front of my closet … paralyzed by the choices hanging in front of me … wondering what I should wear for the day! So, I have to ask you: “How would you like to put on a National Park Service volunteer uniform and head off to your volunteer job in your favorite National Park in the morning?” If you answer, “I’d love that!” you need to find the uniformed team that fits your interests. Each Park has rules regarding which volunteer positions require a uniform and which positions require street clothes. If uniforms are required, they usually consist of dark brown, tan, gray, or black pants, a tan shirt, and a dark brown hat … some may be available for checkout from the Volunteer Office. The supervisor you are reporting to will have more specific information.
Your NPS Volunteer Application And Contact Information
You can find the National Park Service volunteer application at the NPS website. Find more information in the Volunteer Forms section of the National Park Service website.
The Volunteer Coordinator has information about volunteer opportunities and can be reached at 718-354-5109.
Once you complete the application, you send it for review:
- Via email to email@example.com
- Via snail mail to:
Gateway National Recreation Area
210 New York Avenue
Staten Island, New York 10305
Your application will be distributed to the sites for review and consideration.
5 Reasons National Parks Volunteers Love What They Do
There are so many reasons people give their precious time, talent and treasure to causes they believe in … here are the top five reasons volunteering is both popular and meaningful.
- Being part of something bigger than myself.
- Helping to preserve our Public Lands for future generations.
- Meeting other people who share my values.
- Using my skills in a productive way and developing new ones.
- Getting out of the house and in to nature.
Don’t forget … There are also state park volunteer opportunities too! 😉
Volunteering at National Parks and other Public Lands is awesome but “doing it green” is even better! Check out our How To Go Green On Camp Trips: 8 Easy Tips For Eco-Friendly Camping And Hiking blog post for more helpful information!
No time to look for recipes, create a menu and write a grocery list? No Problem! Get our 3-Day Dutch Oven Camp Menu Plan here!