Nurture Your Nature

Volunteering in parks

Park volunteers remove invasive star thistle from Almaden Quicksilver County Park at the future site of a mining history exhibit.

Photograph by Lane Johnson

 If you are one of the thousands of Bay Area people who enjoy hiking, biking, camping, or just taking a walk at one of our local parks, have you ever wondered what it takes to keep them green and clean? With nearly 45,000 acres of land in 28 parks, Santa Clara County Parks is one of the largest regional park systems in California. In addition to the dedicated ranger and interpretive staff who care for our parks, over 3,000 volunteers donate more than 55,000 hours of labor each year.

Clearing trails and pulling non-native foliage may sound selfless, but it’s also fulfilling. Volunteering is a great way to spend time in our local parks while meeting like-minded people who have an interest in the welfare of our natural habitat and wildlife. You can volunteer as an individual or you can gather together your officemates, carpool buddies, or social group to spend a day caring for parks.

Jamie Younse, Account Coordinator at Return Path in Sunnyvale, together with 10 co-workers, spent one of her regular workdays outside at Sanborn County Park in the Saratoga hills, trimming trees and providing fire control maintenance. According to Angela Baldonero, the company’s Senior Vice President of People and Client Success, “Caring for the community is an important part of our culture. We give our employees full empowerment to donate their paid time in ways that are meaningful to them.”

Park volunteers don’t have to get their hands dirty. Volunteers are needed to conduct educational and recreational programs. Docents are needed on an on-going basis to participate in a variety of interpretive programs and help operate visitor centers throughout the parks. Hikers, bikers, and horseback riders help the ranger staff by patrolling the parks and providing visitor information and basic emergency services.

For two years in a row, Glenn Nomi, Program Manager of Green Initiatives at Cisco Systems, and a team of about 75 fellow employees donated their time setting up tables and equipment for Festival in the Park, a health, safety, recreation, and green living fair held at Hellyer County Park. Nomi says, “It’s a good team-building opportunity and it’s great to be outside in such an awesome setting.”

Cisco employees are encouraged to volunteer at least one day of service every year to a qualified charity. Cisco believes that when employees volunteer and give back, they strengthen their connections to the communities they serve.

Volunteering in your local park is perfect for individuals, corporations, school groups, social groups, and scout troops. For additional information visit the Santa Clara County Parks “Volunteer Here” page at