The Importance of our Volunteer Core Leaders | Cal Parks

The Importance of our Volunteer Core Leaders

Published: July 14, 2022

Our volunteer program 

California State Parks Foundation’s volunteerism program began with an annual Earth Day volunteer event in 1998. Through these events, we learned the power of what volunteers can accomplish in a single day. In 2010, we expanded the program to year-round in response to unprecedented budget cuts and a growing backlog of deferred maintenance projects.   

Bringing volunteers together on an on-going basis tackles pressing needs of the parks throughout the year. In partnership with the California Department of Parks and Recreation, our volunteer days provide consistent, sustainable volunteer support in state parks across California. Volunteering in parks is an engaging way for people to learn about their local state parks. Our volunteer days make it possible for more people to take the first step in becoming park stewards in a warm and welcoming volunteer community. All tools and instruction are provided at the beginning of each workday. 

 It can be hard for individuals to know how to make an impact or know where to start to address these needs. Other volunteer programs require an ongoing commitment in order to become a volunteer, a lengthy training program, or a minimum number of hours per month. 

Many concerned Californians and park supporters want to be a part of the solution. When people have the opportunity to get in the dirt and weeds, literally, and make a personal connection with their local state park and fellow community members, the pride of ownership and responsibility can spur a lifetime of advocacy on behalf of California state parks. Volunteering is a way they can address unmet needs of the park, while also experiencing the satisfaction of making an immediate impact. Many parks can benefit from ongoing volunteer support in the areas of park maintenance and beautification but lack the staff and financial resources to do so.  

Our volunteers help with critical projects such as planting native plants, removing invasive species, trail repair, trash clean-up, post-wildfire restoration, and clearing brush to reduce wildfire risk. Our volunteerism program protects and preserves state parks for all to enjoy – now and for generations to come – by investing in the power of people and mobilizing everyday Californians.  



Volunteer Core Leaders 

The program model works by developing and training localized groups of volunteer core leaders who have the enthusiasm and skills needed to help plan and lead public workdays at local state park sites. Each park site has a group of volunteer core leaders to support the park, and each other. This volunteer dedication enables the program to expand its reach and support more parks across the state. The goal for all our active park sites is to engage core leader teams who develop a rapport with park staff, get to know the unique culture and needs of that park, and plan and lead volunteer workdays together with support and input from California State Parks Foundation’s program staff. The volunteer core leaders work closely with California State Parks Foundation staff and park staff to accomplish key projects and achieve a quality volunteer experience.   



Who should become a core leader  

Becoming a core leader is a great fit for you if:  

  • You are passionate about state parks and want to play a deeper role in getting good work done.  

  • You are a flexible team player and are comfortable working with people of all backgrounds.  

  • You are interested in being part of a community of people that care deeply about state parks.   

  • You are available to volunteer approximately once per month.  


While not a requirement, we are also looking for core leaders who:  

  • Speak multiple languages.  

  • Have deep ties in their local community.  

  • Have strong knowledge of California native plants, habitat restoration, trail work, and/or general park maintenance.  



Potential roles of a volunteer core leader 

  • Event planning 

  • Compose workplans 

  • Connect with park staff 

  • Outreach and promotion 

  • Create flyers 

  • Table at an event 

  • Registration and waivers 

  • Give the welcome speech 

  • Coordinate breakfast and snacks 

  • Take photos 

  • Be a crew leader 

  • Collect event metrics 

  • Write post event reports 


Requirements to become a core leader 

  • You must participate in at least three California State Parks Foundation volunteer workdays to qualify for core leadership training.  


  • If your application is approved, you are also required to attend a training and shadow experienced core leaders before independently planning and leading workdays.  


  • After completing the application process, your acceptance as a core leader is conditional upon a background check paid for by California State Parks Foundation.   

Earth Day Silver Strand


Perks of being a volunteer core leader 

Experience new parks:  


  • Gain knowledge of local parks: Learn from California State Parks staff, California State Parks Foundation staff, and other Volunteer Core Leaders about your local state park. You will learn about what project the parks need and why they matter, park maintenance, planting and weeding, and more! 


  • Trainings: Volunteer core leaders are offered trainings throughout the year that cover what is going on at California State Parks Foundation, new protocols, and tools/resources (like Google Earth, iNaturalist, etc.) that can help with impact measurements.  


  • Additional experiences: Many projects offer special perks, like guided interpretive tours, horticulture and wildlife education opportunities, kayaking, and free camping.  


If you’d like to step up to be a Volunteer Core Leader or have questions before making the decision contact us at