I have previously written about the various groups in the community that must play key roles in preserving, protecting and enhancing our parks and trails. These parties include neighborhood associations, service clubs, youth groups, church groups, schools, businesses, corporations and others. Another key component is that of citizen volunteers.
Whether individually or in groups, volunteers are essential to the new paradigm of our city parks and trails. The contemporary concept of ownership of our parks includes a city-wide commitment by volunteers at several levels.
The city of San Jose has a formal volunteer program that includes both Adopt-a-Park and Adopt-a-Trail components. Both of these components involve volunteers taking on a specific custodial relationship with a park or trail. In some cases, the adopting volunteer is an individual who lives nearby or has a particular knowledge and love of a park or trail. In other cases, the volunteers are part of a neighborhood group or are a family that watches over a park.
Volunteers have given much to San Jose’s parks and trails, especially under the capable leadership of Mollie Tobias, whose role has recently been increased from part-time to full-time. Between 2009 and 2012, the city hosted 287 volunteer events, using the services of just under 4,000 volunteers each year. These volunteers worked a total of 46,780 hours—work that is valued at $1,068,186, using prevailing volunteer standards.
Of the 200 parks in San Jose, about 75 have adopting volunteers. San Jose Parks Foundation would like to see every park adopted over the next few years. The process of becoming an Adopt-a-Park volunteer is very simple. Volunteers commit to at least 2 hours per month for one year. Training, tools and other supplies are provided.
People interested in volunteering need only contact Mollie Tobias, San Jose’s Parks and Trails Volunteer Coordinator, or contact San Jose Parks Foundation.
Another key component is group volunteering. Corporate groups, service clubs, school groups and others devote time (half-day or full-day, usually) to a specific project in a park or trail. These projects usually involve cleaning up or repairing broken equipment.
Many volunteers enjoy the camaraderie of working with others doing something valuable for the community. Corporate groups like the team-building aspect of a volunteer project in a park. Individuals may also participate in these volunteer events, which are promoted periodically, and require no further commitment than to show up and lend a hand for a few hours.
One of the primary commitments of San Jose Parks Foundation is to promote the volunteer program, which is an essential part of the long-term care of our parks and trails. In addition to empowering neighborhoods, ensuring the vitality and strength of the volunteer program is a key to the future of an excellent parks and trails system for everyone to enjoy for generations to come.
James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at [email protected] or 408.893.PARK.