Northern Utah offers outdoor volunteering opportunities for all ages

Wednesday , August 13, 2014 - 9:23 PM

JoAn and Paul Powell started volunteering at the visitors center on Antelope Island after returning from an LDS mission in Micronesia. They joke that they took the position and stuck with it for nearly two decades because they fell in love with islands, but of course, the experience has other perks.

“It’s a break from the routine to come out here, and get away from the hub-bub,” JoAn said.

The Powells live in South Ogden, and volunteering gives them an excuse to get away from the city grind. It’s also a means for chatting with new people about the Great Salt Lake’s salt content, lake levels and where to find bison. 

“Out here, you meet people from all over the world,” Paul said. “Without exception, they’ve been impressed.”

And, of course, through volunteering the Powells can both share and give back to a place where they feel a profound connection.

“They couldn’t run a lot of these things without volunteers, they couldn’t make do here without volunteers,” JoAn said. 

For those with similar ties to the outdoors, or those looking to find inspiration or an excuse to get outside, there’s a plethora of local volunteering activities for a range of ages and abilities. 

Utah State Parks

State parks like Antelope Island, Bear Lake and Willard Bay are always looking to enlist families, clubs, couples and individuals in their projects. Volunteer opportunities include campground hosting, guiding nature walks, patrolling trails, collecting fees and answering questions at visitors centers. 

“It actually gives people, especially people who love the great outdoors, an opportunity to become more involved and better outdoor stewards by volunteering,” said Utah State Parks Volunteer Coordinator Robin Watson-Christensen.

Watson-Christensen said some parks have greater needs than others, but in general, they’re always looking for volunteers to do general maintenance work. Campground hosting is the most popular volunteering position, especially among retirees. Parks staff can also work with volunteers to develop programs suited to their interests and abilities. 

“Our volunteers are awesome,” she said. “A lot of times, the only contact visitors have is with park staff, so they’re of great importance to us. They convey how important our parks are to visitors.”

The minimum requirement for most volunteers is four hours a month, although campground host positions require at least 30 hours a week. Hosts are reimbursed with a free campsite, full hookups and a $75 weekly stipend. For more information or to sign up, visit the Utah State Parks volunteer website

Weber Pathways

For those looking to bust a gut, Weber Pathways has lots of hands-on activities to help maintain trails. Weber County had around 450 miles of trails, which see lots of use from hikers and cyclists. With more expansion projects on the horizon, there’s plenty of work to be done.  

“People get exited about the idea of having a new trail, so that’s something we get pretty serious volunteer groups come out for,” said Rod Kramer, outreach coordinator with Weber Pathways. “You end up feeling a sense of stewardship for the trail, and it’s pretty motivating.”

Volunteers can police for trash or do some heavy lifting by help with trail construction. Weber Pathways also works to develop projects for Eagle Scouts and occasionally needs volunteers to lead guided hikes.

They recently launched an online Meetup group with a Weber County trail-maintenance project calendar. It’s a collaborative effort between the U.S. Forest Service, Weber State University, Ogden Trails Network,  Weber Pathways and others to give potential volunteers a one-stop spot to find projects. Visit their  Meetup website and sign up for updates on when new projects are scheduled. 

For other volunteer questions, email outreach@weberpathways.org.

Ogden Nature Center

For volunteer projects with some educational opportunities on ecology sprinkled in, look to the Ogden Nature Center. Enlistees can help with wetland restoration projects, gather native seeds with a botanist or help care for resident animals. 

“We have 152 acres of wildlife preserve, which is a lot of work for a small staff,” said Volunteer Coordinator Jenny Frame. “We heavily rely on volunteers to make sure Nature Center is at its best.”

For those who don’t like being out in the field, the Ogden Nature Center also has a need for greeters and helpers at events like the upcoming Wildwoods Bash, scheduled for Sept. 5. Frame said there are volunteer options for families and workers of all ages.

“There’s a job for everyone here,” she said. “If you check our website and don’t see an opportunity that you want to do, give us a call.”

For more information, visit the Ogden Nature Center website or contact Frame at jframe@ogdennaturecenter.org or 801-621-7595. 

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