How to Start

Volunteering

It feels good to give something back to the outdoors.

Step 1

Where’s your favorite forest or park? Start by identifying a place that you’d like to contribute to.

Step 2

If you’re not sure where to start, connect with local volunteer groups. You can just search for a “friends of” group associated with the park or forest you selected.

Step 3

Pack some heavy-duty trash bags and old gloves. If your kids are small, ask them to help you find litter, but make sure you’re the one picking it up.

Step 4

Older kids can write down more serious clean-up issues, like eroding streams, graffiti, and forest facilities, that need to be repaired.

Step 5

Make a volunteering poster at home to keep track of the work you do. Let the kids add a sticker for each bag of trash they collect. While you’re out volunteering, you can keep track of your progress using a notepad or on your phone.
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Activity Ideas

  • Make your own trash picker

    A pair of kitchen or BBQ tongs can be a perfect kid-sized trash picker. Grab an old pair from around the house or pick one up at your local thrift store. Try decorating the handles with colorful duct tape, stickers, fabric, or yarn.
  • Asking for help

    Make a list of the things that need maintenance at your favorite outdoor space. Bring your list home and talk about who is the right person to tell about the problems. Call, email, or even write a letter to that person to let them know what needs to be fixed, and to offer your help.

What to Bring

Plenty of water, even for short hikes — a gallon per person per day is a good guide
Snacks such as fruit or trail mix and empty bags to collect any garbage
Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen
Insect repellent
Lightweight rain jacket

Safety Tips

Before you get on the trail make sure you have the local Forest Service Ranger District’s or Supervisor’s Office phone number with you. If someone gets hurt this should be the first number you call.
Always let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be back.
Avoid going if a thunderstorm is in the forecast. Seek shelter in a car or house if you’re caught in a thunderstorm. If you're caught outside, the safest place to be is crouching in a cluster of trees — not in a clearing, out on water, or next to a lone tree.
Be mindful of the sun. Use sunscreen, seek shade, and drink plenty of water — even in the winter.
Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
Fruits and mushrooms can look tasty, but some are poisonous. To be safe, do not eat anything you find growing in the forest.
Railroad tracks are for trains only. Keep to the side and stay off the tracks.
Set a turnaround time when heading out that gives you plenty of time to get back before it gets dark. Expect to spend at least the same amount of time hiking back as you did hiking out.
Bring a small flashlight or another source of light with you if you'll be out close to sunset.
Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
Remember to be mindful of cars when you’re in a park near a road. Wear bright colors for extra visibility.