As the Badger state gears up for the start of summer, a Wisconsin State Park System official shared details on a few-months-old web portal that lets people more easily seek out potential volunteer opportunities.
Janet Hutchens, the friends and volunteers coordinator for the state parks through the state Department of Natural Resources, joined WPR’s "Central Time" back in March to explain the importance of volunteers to the state parks and how she hopes the portal can make volunteering simpler.
"They make a world of difference to our mission of being able to enhance and protect our natural resources," she said.
The portal, which launched in late February, lets interested volunteers sort through openings by property, county, type of property, type of task, skills and abilities, duration, availability and a date range of activity.
It also includes a promotional video for the state parks and a rotating list of available openings.
"We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers," Anne Korman, a property superintendent, said in the video. "When you get 1.5 million people coming to a property over a year, that puts a lot of use and a big heavy footprint on a property."
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Hutchens said volunteers can take on a wide variety of roles, including:
- helping control invasive species;
- planting native plants;
- maintaining facilities and grounds;
- offering programs that introduce people to the state’s natural habitats and "share the story of the land;"
- teaching people recreation, such as hiking, camping and fishing.
While Wisconsin is approaching the summer season, she said there are volunteer opportunities available year-round. There are also options for short-term and long-term work. The latter includes staying on a property as a campground host for a few weeks, a month or longer, for example.
Volunteers can find work individually, but Hutchens said there are also options to join existing groups. She pointed to the 64 different friends groups that support various properties. The groups also handle fundraising for causes that include building new shelters or adding picnic tables to an area, she said.
She praised all the work volunteers do to make the state parks run.
"They share their time and talents in jobs that fit with their passions and interests," she said. "They’re really excited about helping us provide more opportunities for our visitors and (helping) improve the parks to offer more recreation opportunities."
Beth Luchsinger, a park volunteer, said in the promotional video that she gets to go hiking and kayaking when she’s not helping campers.
"Just plain being outside, living in the woods, being in nature, it makes you feel good," she said.