Friday, August 14, 2009


Today is my second day off this week. Because I wasn't at work and volunteers make that possible, I thought a good topic for today would be volunteerism. I also read today that the Florida Park Service reached a new record for volunteer hours served last fiscal year. 6,000+ volunteers gave more than 1.2 million hours of their time to Florida's 160+ State Parks. Its is really great to see that when the economy is troubled, people are showing so much support for the things that they care about. I have seen so many examples recently of people standing up and stepping in to make sure that the state parks have the means to preserve and keep available these special places.
There are many opportunities within Florida's State Park system to volunteer and some that you may not know about. If you have ever wanted to work in a Florida State Park, you can! You help out every time that you respect the park that you are in or if you pick up a piece of litter that someone else dropped. If you want to do a little more, just ask the park staff at your favorite state park or put in an application online. You can volunteer as much or as little as you like, every day or even once a month or once a year. Sometimes the parks need extra help for special events, or you might have a special skill that could come in handy for a project. If you know a lot about a certain park-related topic, you could give a park program or help with a wildlife count. If you don't know anything at all about the park and you want to learn more, make yourself available to help out and you will learn a lot, quickly! If you have skills in plumbing, painting, carpentry, electrical work, or fixing things in general, you will definitely be welcomed as a volunteer at a state park! In addition to volunteering your days at a local park, another opportunity is to camp at the park in exchange for volunteer work. Many of Florida's State Parks and other parks around the nation have camp sites set aside just for volunteers. They camp, usually in RV's and usually for a few weeks or a few months, at the site and work in the park. Often, these camping volunteers are hosts at a campground. They can answer questions from other campers, make sure that the campground is clean, and help out the park rangers. In parks without campgrounds, camping volunteers provide additional site security and help out with daily park duties. Still another way to volunteer is to join a Citizen Support Organization, or a CSO. CSO's are volunteer organizations that support the parks. Usually, they serve as fundraisers for projects within the park. Often, CSO members donate their time to work in the park or to hold special events. There is a state wide CSO called Friends of Florida State Parks as well as many CSO's or 'Friends' groups for individual parks in the Florida State Park System. Troy Springs has a CSO that also supports Peacock Springs State Park called the North Florida Springs Alliance. At Troy, the CSO raises funds with a soda machine and with T-shirt sales. The CSO has put in dive benches for SCUBA divers and sponsors an event every spring at Troy. They also do a lot at Peacock Springs like maintaining underwater diving passages and setting up an interpretive trail over the cave system.
If you don't live in Florida, its very likely that your county, city, or state parks also have a volunteer program. It never hurts to ask and it might end up being a lot of fun. The photos on the blog today were taken this past spring at our district Volunteer Appreciation Day. The celebration was held at one of our state parks, Dudley Farm. This is a living history, working farm that has preserved the livelihood of a real family that lived on this land for three generations. Park Rangers and volunteers at this park have jobs very different from mine. Their uniform is that of an 1800's farm worker. Their jobs are maintaining the farm and educating visitors about the farm and the cultural history that it represents. It is an awesome park to visit, it really takes you back in time and makes you feel part of the farm life.

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