The 35 day partial government shutdown had a huge negative impact on our national parks — and that was on top of the $11.6 billion dollar backlog for repairs or maintenance on roads, buildings, utility systems, and other structures and facilities.
The shutdown reduced the National Park Service’s 25,000-strong workforce to just more than 3,000 across it’s 418 sites. Trash piled up, toilets overflowed, protected trees were cut down and vandalism was rampant.
But the shutdown also brought out the best in people who helped to remove trash, staff information tables and made financial contributions to organizations that support our national parks.
And there are still plenty of opportunities to make these amazing places even better!
The National Park Service offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups as part of the Volunteers-In-Parks program. You can work behind the scenes or on the front lines, serving alongside park employees or with one of the many partner organizations. Opportunities are available at park locations throughout the United States, including the territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean.
Some positions are specialized and require particular talents, knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as a background check. Other positions only require a desire and willingness to volunteer. Individuals under the age of 18 must have written consent of the parent or legal guardian before they may volunteer.
The National Park Foundation — the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service — encourages people to learn about volunteer opportunities. Many parks have independent “Friends” groups coordinating volunteer efforts locally.
In January, the National Park Foundation created a restoration fund for parks needing the most help. By supporting the Parks Restoration Fund, your donations will go to the parks that need help the most. The National Park Foundation will be able to work with the National Park Service and with park partners to assess needs and provide clean up efforts.
As we head into another busy travel season, get out and see the amazing landscapes, learn about our vibrant culture and rich history at a national park, seashore, lakeshore, recreation area, or at one of the many memorials and monuments across this great nation.
*Photo courtesy, National Park Foundation