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Volunteerism Opportunities

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You can help

There are may choices for those willing to pitch in to keep Virginia State Parks among the nation's best.

Virginia State Parks need volunteers to help run the parks and manage their natural resources. Volunteers staff contact stations and visitor centers, conduct environmental education programs, beautify the parks, develop and maintain trails, help visitors find what they need and make nearby communities' more aware of park offerings and activities. These are serious duties and responsibilities, so committed volunteers must be willing and able to reliably carry them out.

Duties are matched to the interests and abilities of the given volunteer. A medical examination or criminal background check may be required, specifically when the volunteerism activity involves young people.


photo of volunteers If you’re interested, you may volunteer as an individual or as part of a group for projects lasting only a few days or for long-term projects in specialized programs. After determining the district or park(s) of interest, email the volunteer coordinator to learn about currently available opportunities and apply. And feel free to apply for more than one park. (Those under 18 may volunteer, however written permission from a parent or guardian is required.)


photo of volunteers When applying, describe your experience, education, talents, skills and interests. Each park has unique needs and looks for volunteers with particular skills. The more thoroughly you describe your knowledge, skills and abilities, the better a match the volunteer coordinator can make to suit your needs as well as the park’s.

There are so many different ways to help that, regardless of experience and skills, park staff nearly always find a job that suits you. Many of the jobs, naturally, are outdoors and require “getting your hands dirty,” but there is indoor business as well, such as various administrative and guest relations work.


photo of volunteers Many parks have officially organized “Friends of” volunteer groups. These groups organize special events, raise money, schedule workdays and partner with local businesses. They also contact the media and legislature to get the word out on issues important to parks. Read below for more detail on such groups.

Virginia State Parks provides volunteer opportunities for students seeking to fulfill service-learning requirements for graduation. Many teens volunteer part-time during the school year by engaging in events, festivals and special projects. Some prefer longer term, year-round opportunities.


Why Volunteer in Virginia State Parks?

  • photo of volunteers To have fun
  • Environmental stewardship
  • To meet new people and build lasting relationships
  • To improve health
  • To enhance work and life experiences
  • New challenges and opportunities
  • To build self-esteem and confidence

Benefits

photo of volunteersParks provide training that helps volunteers gain work experience and improve job skills. In addition, volunteer hours count as job experience when applying for employment with Virginia State Parks or for any state government slot.

Depending on how many hours you contribute, you'll receive a one-year or lifetime entrance pass to all Virginia State Parks, camping and cabin use privileges, a certificate of appreciation and much more.


photo of volunteersAs a volunteer, you'll have a positive effect on your state park and community. You'll gain the satisfaction of knowing your efforts enhanced your state parks or natural areas for today and generations to come.

You'll meet new people, ranging from park staff and people in the community to visitors from other countries.


Various Opportunities

We believe the diversity of interests and skills volunteers bring with them are among parks' most valuable resources. To make full use of this resource and to make your volunteer experience rewarding, we offer a wide variety of volunteer opportunities.

Alternative Spring Break - College students stay and work in a state park during spring break.

photo of volunteers

Alumni Association - This is an advocacy organization of former parks system employees. The group also includes spouses and their children. The organization focuses on park issues at the local, regional and state levels, and sponsors community service and charity events.

photo of volunteersCamp Host - The Camp Host Program offers enthusiastic and interested volunteers the chance to gain practical experience in park management and visitor services. Camp Hosts help out in campgrounds during the peak season by helping visitors get around the park, giving visitors information, and serving as a liaison between visitors and park rangers. They camp for free for 30 to 90 days at selected parks in exchange for performing these duties. Camp hosts must provide own RV or camping equipment. Hosts should enjoy working with the public, have the desire to accept new challenges, and possess the willingness to learn about Virginia State Parks.

Citizen Support Organizations and Friend Groups - Many parks have citizen support organizations (CSOs), also called friends groups, made up of volunteers who help shore up park projects, programs and management. Many of these groups have formed to advocate for specific state parks. Funds raised onsite by these friends groups - through gift shop sales, special events and other activities - are used for improvements and programs at particular parks. Twenty-nine parks have a friends group. The parks are:

  • Bear Creekphoto of volunteers
  • Belle Isle
  • Caledon
  • Chippokes Plantation
  • Douthat
  • Fairy Stone
  • False Cape
  • First Landing
  • Grayson Highlands
  • High Bridge Trail
  • Holliday Lake
  • Hungry Mother
  • Kiptopeke
  • James River
  • Lake Anna
  • Leesylvania
  • Mason Neck
  • Natural Tunnel
  • Occoneechee
  • Pocahontas
  • Powhatan
  • Sailor's Creek Battlefield
  • Shenandoah River
  • Sky Meadows
  • Smith Mountain Lake
  • Southwest Virginia Museum
  • Staunton River Battlefield
  • Westmoreland
  • Wilderness Road
  • York River

Contact the director of volunteer services, vspvolunteer@dcr.virginia.gov, or a park's volunteer coordinator for more information on a specific friends group.

photo of volunteersCorporate Partnerships - Companies such as Dominion Power, Alcoa and Smurfit-Stone provide funding and volunteers from their staff to undertake special projects in our parks.

Group Projects - Group projects are great for church, civic and scout groups. Enjoy overnight stays or picnic shelter use in exchange for work projects.

Intern Program - The program is for high school and college students. DCR also offers internships through its Natural Heritage Program.


photo of volunteersVirginia Association for Parks (VAFP) - The VAFP is a nonprofit umbrella organization for citizen support groups (Friends Groups) and individual volunteers supporting state parks, state natural areas, and national parks, monuments and historic sites across the commonwealth. VAFP actively advocates park issues at the local, regional, state and national levels and offers free technical advice and hands-on help to those who wish to form new volunteer support organization(s). VAFP also conducts semi-annual conferences with training sessions and networking opportunities.

photo of volunteersThe Youth Conservation Corps (VSPYC) - The Virginia State Parks Youth Conservation Corps’ engages Virginia’s young people in a structured work program of conservation and park management projects on public lands while, at the same time, providing a unique learning experience that fosters teamwork, self-esteem, social responsibility and respect for the environment. Youth crews are generally made up of about 10 young people, ages 14-17 from diverse backgrounds, and three college-age or older crew supervisors. The team lives in the park, closely supervised by professional park staff and committed adult volunteers. By day, the crews carry out important, needed park development and maintenance projects. After hours, the young people take part in planned environmental education, recreation, team-building and job readiness training There are three main program elements:

  • photo of volunteersYouth Conservation Corps (YCC) - A residential program for young people who work and live in the state parks (corps sites) for about three weeks
  • Youth Service Corps (YSC) - A nonresident day program that focuses on “at risk” and court-monitored young people.
  • Youth Development Corps (YDC) - A weekend program that runs from Friday evening to Sunday noon. (The program is still being developed.)
Youth Ambassador Program - Learn more about this program in which people 16 to 28 share their outdoor experience through blogs, photo essays and videos.

For More Information

photo of volunteersFor general information about Virginia State Parks volunteer programs, phone 804-625-3984, FAX 804-786-9294, email vspvolunteer@dcr.virginia.gov or write to:

State Parks Director of Volunteer Services
600 E. Main St., 16th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219


Learn more about becoming a Campground Host or Park Host

For information about volunteering opportunities, write vspvolunteer@dcr.virginia.gov.

Learn more about being an intern with DCR's Natural Heritage Program

To learn more about advocacy for state parks for help in starting a parks friends group, see the Virginia Association for Parks website.