Sharing your time in exchange for rewards, such as the opportunity to live in some of the most beautiful and sought-after locations in California from beaches to mountains and just about everywhere in between, is one of the main benefits of volunteering in one of California’s State Parks.
Workamping at California State Parks
A vital part to overall success of California State Parks, volunteers make up a large part of the staff. You’ll notice them working tirelessly to educate and teach the public about these valued locations scattered throughout the state. The system’s properties include more than just your typical idea of a state park. It also includes a variety of treasured resources like historic monuments, lighthouses, historic homes, ghost towns, beaches, museums, visitor centers, and even off-road vehicle parks. With over 40,000 volunteers to date who have contributed more than 1 million combined hours of dutiful service, the California State Park system which according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, now includes “280 state park units, over 340 miles of coastline, 970 miles of lake and river frontage, 15,000 campsites, and 4,500 miles of trails”, continues to thrive and grow.
“Working for California State Parks is more than just a job, it’s an opportunity to become a steward of some of the most important historic, beautiful and culturally significant resources in the state,” said California State Parks Director Lisa Mangat in a recent press release. “Our employees work tirelessly to preserve delicate environments, modernize visitor connections through technology, and protect and uphold the law – all the while remaining dedicated to living the parks life throughout California.” Living the Parks Lifeis a phrase California State Parks uses to describe the life of those who work and volunteer inside the park system. They encourage people to “become a California State Parks volunteer and BE the difference!”.
Many Workampers are interested in volunteering for government agencies, charities and non-profits, where their hourly contribution is highly sought after. Their participation is heavily relied upon and the reward for such flows in forms other than monetary compensation. Volunteering can be a very rewarding choice for Workampers who desire experiences and benefits other than cash and have other means to sustain their travels such as savings, retirement or social security.
On the other hand, some folks have found that volunteering is an entrance ticket to paid positions or a way to gain experience in Workamping when they are just starting out. These folks accept a volunteer gig in hopes of gaining experience and building their Workamper resume to give them a leg up for future positions down the road. Overall, volunteering is just another way to Workamp. It’s a way to travel and see the country in exchange for work completed at various sites along the way. I encourage you to think of the possibilities that working for an organization such as California State Parks would do, not only for you but for the bigger goal of preserving and maintaining our country’s natural resources.
As a volunteer, you will have the opportunity to experience and learn history while living in a historical site and spending time in nature. You can help maintain and preserve the state’s natural environment and help habitats that are endangered or in need of repair. Many volunteers choose to take on these opportunities for the chance of making new friends, meeting new people and sharing the things they learn with the general public.
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There are many positions available for interested volunteers to choose from! Your time and your skills will be contributing to maintaining the park’s assets, encouraging visitor engagement, and sometimes behind the scenes tasks whose direct goals are to keep the park’s operation up and running smoothly. You can volunteer as a campground host and live onsite at one of many properties, or maybe help out in the visitor center and conduct tours as a docent. There are also opportunities available for roles in maintenance, safety patrol, and many others!
Becoming a trained volunteer historian who interprets the natural and cultural features of the state parks, is an amazing opportunity to have direct contact with park visitors. A highly trained position that requires continuous enrichment and training, Docents are able to receive the facts and information pertinent to the location, and add their personal style into the delivery. Job responsibilities may vary based on your location placement, but the opportunity to become involved with the educational programs, tours, living history reenactments and more, entice energetic folks to apply for these roles! People who are genuinely great with public speaking, have a knack for communications and a passion for sharing stories, are a great fit for these positions!
Public Safety Patrol:
The overall job of the Public Safety patrol volunteers is to provide safety information to the public. This includes; but is not limited to, first aid and emergency assistance that might be required during foot, boat, mountain bike, horseback or ATV patrol on property.
The most well-known job for a Workamper is a Park Host. The Park Host is the face of the park. A highly visible and accessible representative of the park system that assists day use and overnight visitors in a variety of ways from collecting fees, and cleaning facilities, to encouraging compliance with park rules and maybe even some light maintenance work. The Park Host performs a broad range of job duties and is more like a jack of all trades than a master of one. These positions will usually require onsite living for ease of access and may require a 1-3-month commitment, or longer depending on the park. Some parks prefer long-term commitments, while other accept shorter stays from multiple hosts throughout the year. In most cases the park host will work about 20-30 hours per week in exchange for their campsite, utilities and access to the facilities. While many parks offer full hookups, there are some parks who offer a more rustic experience and have partial hookups or none at all.
If you’re best at customer service, then the Visitor Center might be the best place for your service inside the park system! Every business needs a smiling cheerful and moreover, helpful representative to greet visitors and provide accurate information! You can be that person as a Visitor Center Volunteer! The main job duties will likely include answering questions in person and over the phone about the specific park amenities, trails, location and more, in addition to greeting guests onsite! Those who excel with direct contact with the public who also have great people skills and a friendly disposition should do well in these positions!
Natural Resource Protection:
These dedicated volunteers will play a critical role in the protection of natural resources in the California State Parks. Volunteers may be asked to assist with variety of hands-on jobs like exotic plant removal or relocations, trail maintenance and constructions, beach cleanups, habitat restorations and even native plant nurturing and enhancement projects. With something always on the list to do, to add to the overall welfare of the park, the Natural Resource Protection volunteer is a great position for someone who likes to stay busy and work with nature!
My suggestion before applying for any position is to thoroughly research the park, the location, and to find out the amenities that will be offered in exchange for your time. Since not all volunteer positions will likely come with the same benefits such as a campsite with full hookups, it’s best to know up front what exactly you are applying for. Once you know for sure that the position is something you are interested in and capable of doing for the set time commitment, you’ll want to complete a Volunteer in Parks Application.
Since each park is managed separately, you’ll need to send your completed application to the volunteer coordinator at the park you are interested in working for. If applying to more than one location, be sure to send each location a separate copy of your application.
On your application, put your best foot forward! These positions will be competitive, and the best applicant will end up getting the job. Take your time to fill out the application entirely and to your best ability, paying particular attention to the education and employment background section and then attach a more detailed resume that further highlights your skills and experience! Make sure to provide the information for three verifiable references who can vouch for your work ethic and abilities as they pertain to these positions. The more information you provide to the volunteer coordinator the better chances you’ll have.
Volunteer opportunities are open to those over the age of 18. A medical and/or criminal background check may be required, along with a State Park Volunteer Application and a Volunteer Service Agreement. Volunteers need to be both reliable and willing to complete assigned job duties, as like all Workamper employers, the state parks rely on you to help them during their busiest times and efforts are said to be made to match your interests, skills and desires to the positions available.