By Joyce Abrams, Core Leader at China Camp State Park Before I started volunteering at China Camp State Park in 2012, I thought it couldn’t be that hard to run a park. There are trails, trees, and historic structures. I was certain volunteers could keep the park humming with minimal effort. Then I learned about everything it takes to maintain our park: invasive plant removal, painting, mowing, weed-whacking, culvert clearing, staffing park facilities (visitor center, campground kiosk, café, museum), collecting fees, trail maintenance and repair, purchasing and maintaining equipment, opening and closing the park, fundraising, firewood splitting, event planning, campground logistics, hazardous tree removal, and fire extinguisher service... to name a few. It was clear we needed an army of volunteers with various skills and interests. California State Parks Foundation helped us recruit that army. When California State Parks Foundation’s workdays began at China Camp, it was these events that really opened my eyes to the value of a team of volunteers.
Whether the team is large or small, what can be accomplished is amazing (always take before and after photos – it will make you smile). I needed the tools and resources to organize a volunteer event and define the work that needed to get done. That’s why I decided to become a California State Parks Foundation Core Leader. In the process, I learned to operate loaders, dump trucks, weed-whackers, log splitters, augers and more. I even learned what a McLeod is (a rake hoe, previously known to me as a “thingy”). These were never on my bucket list as a 100 lb retired nurse, but ya know what, it’s fun. Volunteering has also introduced me to people with diverse backgrounds, different interests, and get-it-done attitudes. Being among friends who make me laugh, help me learn, and make China Camp a shining example of a volunteer-powered park is what keeps me going. There is energy and inspiration to be found in volunteers, and to say that they are the engine of a nonprofit, grassroots organization is an understatement. Repeatedly hearing from visitors that “the park has never looked better” makes me happy and proud. Who are volunteers? They are ordinary people with extraordinary action.
This June, we’re celebrating the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers from across California who tirelessly donate their time and work to improve the quality, safety and preservation of our state parks with Champion Your Parks Month! Click here to learn how you can join the celebration and thank our amazing volunteers.