Want to Feel Happy and Appreciated? Help Out at a National Park

Volunteers and staff at Harpers Ferry.

Volunteers and staff at Harpers Ferry. Photo courtesy of Alan Spears.

It’s a joyful, even goofy grin that I’ve learned to look for on the faces of National Park Service staff managing volunteer service projects. It’s a look that says, “You didn’t have to be here today, but you came anyway, and I’m so happy that you did.”

I got to see that look first-hand when I joined 11 other staff members from NPCA on a volunteer service project at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia earlier this month. It was our task to help install 120 feet of post and rail fencing along a ridge in the historic lower town. As far as projects go, it was not that complex an operation. Yet with park budgets on the decline and Park Service personnel spread increasingly thin, it was the sort of work that might have gone undone for weeks, months, or even years, had it not been for volunteers and a commitment on the part of the park staff to recruit and manage our labor.

In my day job, I work as a legislative representative. I help our champions in Congress and in communities all across the country to advance legislation and policies that benefit our National Park System. As wonderful as that work is, it can often take multiple sessions of Congress and many years to enact a bill or designate a park. Volunteering in a national park provides a more immediate sense of satisfaction. There are 120 feet of historic fencing on a ridge at Harpers Ferry that wasn’t up the morning my colleagues and I arrived. We built that fence together and have the splinters and sore muscles to proudly show for it.

Somewhere, as you read this, there’s a national park with a backlog maintenance project that needs doing. I urge you to lend a hand and help protect the most special places on the American landscape. My colleagues and I can’t wait to go back to Harpers Ferry and help out again. I can already see the smile on the face of the volunteer coordinator.

Get more information on volunteering at http://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm.

About the Author

Cultural Resources Director Alan Spears

Alan Spears joined NPCA in 1999 and currently serves as NPCA's cultural resources director and a lobbyist for the NPCA's government affairs department. He has served as the staff lead or co-lead on successful campaigns to establish the Fort Monroe, Harriet Tubman, Delaware First State, and Colonel Charles Young National Monuments. Alan previously helped win introduction and passage of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Funding Reauthorization Act of 2008, which helped raise the authorized funding limit for this program to $2.5 million per year. Alan has a B.A. in American History with a concentration in Women’s Studies from Clark University (Worcester, MA) and an M.A. in American History from Howard University (Washington, DC) where he wrote a thesis on the Washington, D.C., Race Riot of 1919. Alan was born and raised in Washington, DC.

  • https://www.facebook.com/AmericanImageMedia Jill Bednar

    I would like to volunteer my photo services and give hand when able to in Sandy Hook if need or maybe Island Beach state Park in New Jersey.