Posts Tagged ‘National Parks Service’

Volunteer for Dark Skies

1439107_23524134When was the last time you tipped your head back at night and couldn’t help gasping at the wonder of the night sky? Stars more abundant than we get to see or notice in our urban or suburban environments (easier if you live in a rural area) are always there, but weather and light pollution prevent us from seeing them. It is magnificence of the highest order when you get away, perhaps on your travels, and see the sky anew.

The National Parks Service, in addition to protecting the waterfalls and trails and safety railings and ranger programs and information booths and brochures in our nature lands, is also tasked with protecting the starry night sky experience at the parks. Now here’s the cool thing…they use volunteers, “Astro VIPs” (VIP=Volunteer in Park), to run some of the dark skies programs. Amateur astronomers and hobby stargazers can help get others enthused about viewing clear astral nights. Participating parks include AcadiaBadlandsBlack Canyon of the GunnisonCapitol ReefGlacier and Glen Canyon, just to name a few. You’ll commit spring or summer hours, work with the public, support protection and education goals of night skies programs, and actually earn 25 bucks each night you volunteer. Most of the park locales provide modest housing in small cabins, apartments, dormitories, or RV spots, and, of course, full training.

Just think if your volunteer gig is being an Ambassador of the Night Skies! Stick THAT on your resume!

Free Days at National Parks

When was the last time you were at a National Park? Watching sunrise over the Grand Canyon, stopping mid-hike to watch buffalo in Yellowstone move across a meadow, climbing the cracks at Joshua Tree, parks provide incredible, cinematic memories and experiences. Our national parks, called “The Nation’s Best Idea,” are truly a treasure as a set and individually. Over 100 of the 392 parks are offering free admission this weekend, August 14-15, to entice you outside. Free Days are the law of the land in many parks that never charge admission, but for the ones that do, take a trip this weekend and take advantage of this incredible resource we too often forget.

While you are visiting a park this special weekend, look around and picture yourself volunteering there next weekend or later on this year. Volunteers serve the national parks in truly important ways. We’ve seen economics take their toll on public land (witness California’s closing of many state parks in economic crisis), so volunteers truly make a difference. The National Parks Service last ran the numbers in 2005 (it seems they need some volunteers to do more recent statistics), but even then, half a decade of dramatically increased volunteering ago, volunteers donated 5.2 million hours in national parks work. So get busy enjoying parks this weekend, and then get busy assuring we can enjoy them later.


***For more amazing landscape photos, check out Charles N. Abbott/99 Photography (

Fleet Week Volunteer Inspiration

It is currently Fleet Week in New York, so there are uniforms everywhere you turn as military men and women get some time in the city, and tend to take advantage of it. It is also a week when the government’s ridiculous and never fair or logical “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law is finally moving closer to being dismantled so the military can finally be proud of everyone dedicated and honorable enough  to want to serve the country in this way and wear the uniform.

As the lead up to Memorial Day, there are lots of inspiring volunteer opportunities with veterans organizations around the world. Here are a few to start your search for your own way to be of service, whether you wear a uniform or civvies.

It’s a Memorial Day tradition to lay wreaths on the graves of veterans, so check with your local American Legion post to find the time and place where you can help in this great honor.

The National Parks Service can use volunteer help any time of year at our nation’s monuments and memorials—pitch in near home or while you are traveling for a holiday weekend.

Did you know that it’s not just the shows and entertainers that volunteer their time to the USO, but all of us from all walks of life can join the effort to give service members a taste of home. Assemble and distribute care packages, meet returning forces at the airport, serve snacks at a USO center, or be a welcomer at a reunion party, library, or free Internet center.

In La Jolla, California, volunteers make up most of the staff at the Mount Soledad Memorial, and you too can help at this war memorial that has honored service members since 1914.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, you can spend a week on board a destroyer ship that has been turned into a Naval museum, helping with volunteer maintenance and support—USS Kidd.

*International volunteers work side-by-side with Israel Defense Forces helping keep bases running at top efficiency throughout Israel. The National Council for Volunteering in Israel arranges 2-week postings for you to pitch in while living on base and working with the troops.