Spend Your Summer Giving Back By Volunteering at Your Favorite National Park

National parks cover millions of acres of land and see millions of visitors annually. Running one is like running a town. It takes thousands of employees to keep everything going smoothly. However, another essential part of maintaining park operations is volunteers. Here’s how you can volunteer at a national park this year.

The National Park Service says about 300,000 people volunteer annually in parks. The NPS says these volunteers “work side-by-side with our National Park Service employees in parks and programs across the nation to help preserve our nation’s most precious natural, historical, recreational, and cultural treasures. Volunteers are an essential part of the NPS and help us to meet our mission.”

These volunteer opportunities include campground hosts to protecting elk and visitors in the Smoky Mountains.

To kick things off, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is hosting a volunteer open house on Sunday, February 18, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Happy Days Lodge. 

If you’re unsure where you’ll fit in as a volunteer, you don’t want to miss this list of opportunities. There’s truly something for everyone.

National Park Volunteer Opportunities

Here is Cuyahoga’s list:

  • Actor: Assist in presenting programs on Cuyahoga Valley’s history. Attendance is required at rehearsals and the productions.
  • Citizen Science: Work with park staff to monitor and survey numerous native plant and animal species throughout CVNP.
  • Community Engagement: Work with park staff in communities surrounding CVNP, with a focus on Cleveland and Akron neighborhoods. Duties include staffing booths and assisting with the presentation of programs that highlight the resources of CVNP.
  • Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad: Be a part of the iconic events on the railroad. Opportunities exist for train crew: Trainmen, Concessionaires, Servers; Platform Attendants and Guest Ambassadors, Education Program Assistants, Maintenance and Mechanical Support.
  • Cycling School: Facilitate a biking experience for youth from the Cleveland and Akron areas. Assist with fitting bikes and helmets to youth, accompanying youth on a bike ride along the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail, and ensuring safety.
  • Environmental Education Center: Seeking volunteers interested in youth environmental education programming. Assist with junior ranger events and outdoor education programs.
  • First Ladies National Historic Site: Greet and engage with visitors of the site. Assist with historical interpretation.
  • Get Up, Get Out, and Go: Work with park staff to provide recreational opportunities in the park for community groups. Activities include hiking, field games, biking, fishing, and more.
  • Habitat Restoration: Assist with invasive plant management at park selected sites. Work includes seed collection of native plants under supervision, planting natives, and working in the park greenhouse.
  • James A. Garfield National Historic Site: Greet and engage with visitors of the site. Assist with historical interpretation.
  • Park Promoter: Promote CVNP and the Conservancy for CVNP at special events including park concerts and various other community events in Akron and Cleveland. Greet guests, answer questions, engage in conversations about the national park, and invite guests to become more involved.
  • Rail Rover: Present informal interpretation aboard Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad on regularly scheduled runs. Distribute literature, share animal pelts, and answer questions about the national park.
  • Special Events Team: Assist with Cuyahoga Valley National Park Concert Series, Conservancy for CVNP programming, and other special events. Help with directing traffic flow in the parking lot, taking tickets, and answering visitor questions.
  • Trail Maintenance: Assist in building, maintaining and improving the bike, hike, and horse trails in CVNP using hand tools and power equipment.
  • Trail Mix Shop Greeter: Assist retail staff in the operation of stores by providing excellent customer service, greeting visitors, and providing park information/orientation.
  • Visitor Center Assistant: Assist rangers with the operation of the visitor center. Greet  visitors, provide information/orientation and  complete bookstore sales. Most work will be performed indoors in historic structures.

If any of these opportunities seem like a fit, you can find more information about Cuyahoga Valley National Park here.

If you are interested in any of the other dozens of National Park Service sites, check out the agency’s main volunteer page here.

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