Friday, March 20, 2009

Coming soon: A full schedule of volunteer opportunities

I had a brainstorm last night as I was falling asleep. Why not put together a schedule of volunteer projects lasting throughout the summer, provided that the details may not be predictable until we get closer to the specific dates?

Here's what I mean. In the past, we've worked with park supervisors to come up with specific volunteer projects, which we've then advertised to occur on specific dates. We then recruit volunteers for those specific events, or match up existing interested volunteers or volunteer groups to complete them. This summer, we are hiring four volunteer coordinators (see the job postings in the right-hand column of this blog), in trails, maintenance, plant ecology, and citizen science, who will be tasked with organizing such projects and recruiting volunteers. The projects will evolve over the course of the summer, depending on weather and workflow; for example, the plant ecology position might start out working in the greenhouse, then move to exotic species removal, followed by revegetation and seed collection. What will we be doing on the 4th of July weekend? Who knows? It'll depend on how quickly the snow melts and how rapidly the plants grow and produce seeds. But there is no question that our staff will be working on something that week. So why not take a leap of faith and say that something in the field of plant ecology will be available for volunteers to help with that weekend? We may not be able to tell you just what until we get closer to the date--even a lot closer--but it'll be something, and if you'd like to set that weekend aside now, or even plan to fly here from Boston for a few days, why not let you sign up? If no one shows up, well, hey, we'll be out working anyway. But I'll bet people would.

This is how Golden Gate National Recreation Area works. You can go to their website (actually, the website of their partner, the Golden Gate National Parks Association) and see a calendar of regularly-scheduled volunteer opportunities extending out for months from the present date. Each opportunity listing gives you detailed information about the range of possible projects that may happen on that date, and for the ones coming up, specifically what will be done and where. It tells you how to sign up--either by registering online, or by contacting the project manager, or just by showing up. You can download volunteer registration forms to fill out and turn in when you arrive.

There's so much potential here. Plant ecology, trail construction, meadow roving, citizen science, maintenance, historic restoration--all can, to some extent, be scheduled in the broadest of terms. Next week, I'll put together a draft schedule and share it with some of our program managers. With any luck, by sometime in April we should be able to give you some very specific ideas about how and when you can productively contribute as a volunteer. Meanwhile, let me know what you think!

P.S. This fits closely with our goal of finalizing plans for volunteer groups, as well. If you've already contacted us to express interest in bringing your organized group to the park for a volunteer experience, we should be getting back to you soon with specific projects and dates. If you haven't contacted us yet, of course, there's still time! We love to work with school groups, civic groups, employee organizations, and any other group. Just drop me a note and let me know you're interested, and we'll put you in the queue!

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