As southern West Virginians wait for spring, the National Park Service is preparing for warmer weather by searching for gardeners, history buffs, artists/youth workers and nature lovers who want to do a good deed or a community service project.
NPS Volunteer Coordinator Adrienne Jenkins said volunteers are needed in nearly all areas of the region’s parks this year, especially at Thurmond, Canyon Rim and Grandview visitors’ centers and working in the parks to weed out invasive plant species.
“We’ve had the volunteer program for quite awhile, but with us losing people over the years to retirement and not necessarily filling positions, we’re looking more towards volunteers,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said NPS is rich in opportunities for those who want to volunteer in preparation for the federal job application process, who want to touch up on local history, who want to do a community service project or those who just want opportunities to beautify and organize the parks with other volunteers.
The Youth Arts in the Park contest — a wildflower art contest in a range of mediums — will need volunteers for the April art exhibition at Tamarack.
For those who like nature and have an eye for “weeds,” crews are needed to help NPS crews “pull” garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed and kudzu from park vegetation.
Garlic mustard pulls start in mid-April and run through mid-May, while weeding campaigns against the other two species will be in July and August, said Jenkins.
Those interested in railroad or local history may want to help at the Thurmond visitor’s center, located in the train depot in Thurmond.
The visitor’s center at Grandview Park and the Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center at New River Gorge National River are also in need of staff, said Jenkins.
“We usually have people come from out of state and stay on trailer pads close to those sites,” she said. “People come in and ... work 32 hours a week, and they can stay on those trailer pads for free.
“We haven’t had the response this year from people coming from out of state, so we’re opening it up to locals.”
Jenkins added that visitor’s center volunteers must be able to volunteer at least two days a week.
Volunteers are needed for a variety of construction and maintenance projects around the parks, she added.
A group from Notre Dame University comes twice each year to help with park maintenance projects and will be working on projects at Sandstone and Grandview this spring, she added.
Jenkins reported that 2,640 volunteers provided 15,342 hours of service at New River Gorge National River in 2013.
“A lot of times, people like to come and experience their national parks,” she said. “They get to learn about parks, and it actually helps if anyone’s trying to get a job in the federal government.
“You just get to have fun, talk to lots of people, meet people from all over, and experience a lot of recreational opportunities and learn new things.”
Jenkins is also searching for a volunteer group leader.
Those interested in volunteering may contact Jenkins at 304-465-2634 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.