Core Leader Q&A: Charlotte Bergheimer

Quite simply, Park Champions volunteer workdays would not be possible without our dedicated Core Leaders, individuals from across California who make sure our volunteer workdays run smoothly. Charlotte has been active in the Park Champions program since 2015 and is one of these amazing Core leaders. To help celebrate Park Champions Appreciation Month, Charlotte recently answered a few questions on why she became a Park Champions volunteer and her journey to becoming a core leader.


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Charlotte decorating bee “hotels” at Los Angeles State Historic Park

How did you first get involved with Park Champions?

I first volunteered with Park Champions in late 2015 at Rio de Los Angeles State Park. I was working remotely and hoped to find an opportunity to meet people and spend time outside. I found Park Champions online and took a chance, only to discover a whole new community that welcomed me with open arms. Everyone I met was friendly, and the staff and volunteers that coordinated the workday were extremely encouraging. I was instantly gratified by my tangible contribution to the park through planting native plants and removing invasive species. The work was challenging at times and easier at others, and I learned so much throughout the day. Not to mention great food after a long morning of work! I knew right away that I’d be returning.

Why did you decide to be Core Leader?

After only a few workdays with Park Champions, I was eager to take on more responsibility. By nature I enjoy helping and encouraging others, and that was how I perceived the role of the Core Leader based on my interactions with them. I soon participated in multiple day-long events and trainings available to Park Champion volunteers, which made it clear to me that I was willing to take on the additional responsibilities the Core Leader role entailed. Becoming a Core Leader has helped me engage with the park and its visitors on a deeper level.

Why are state parks important to you?

California’s prerogative of preserving the natural beauty of our state is one of the things that makes living here so great. Parks are a vital part of the communities they’re in, and I personally have found lots of joy and fulfillment through my time spent in state parks. Through Park Champions, I have taken a sense of ownership over the parks’ well-being and am proud to offer my sweat-equity to the efforts that keep these parks viable.

What’s a great memory you have volunteering in State Parks?

While leading a smaller group during a work day at Rio De Los Angeles State Park, we were tasked with removing large fennel plants from an area with dense vegetation. As we navigated through the area we saw rabbits and coyotes, butterflies and birds, new growth and very mature native plants. It was a great representation of the unique nature available to visitors of urban state parks.

Do you have a favorite park to volunteer in?

Los Angeles State Historic Park, as I have been volunteering there since before it was reopened to the public. I am on a first name basis with park rangers and staff, as well as local residents and advocates that support park activities. It feels like home.

Why are Park Champion volunteers important to California state parks?

Park Champion volunteers help promote the parks while assisting park staff in ongoing maintenance and care of the area, fostering a sense of investment in the parks. The program emulates the values of California as a whole, while we as a state-wide community continue to strive for a home that embraces its natural resources and beauty.

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Charlotte with fellow Core Leader Holly. You can read Holly’s story here.

Do you have any words of thanks you would like to share with Park Champions?

Park Champions has provided me with a sense of community that I haven’t found anywhere else. Volunteers come from all walks of life with the same common goal of improving the earth while encouraging others to engage with and appreciate the process. I have made life-long friends through this program, and hope to continue to grow with the program. I have now attended two annual Park Advocacy Days in Sacramento on behalf of Park Champions, and continue to find new parks to volunteer at with their own group of amazing volunteers. I am grateful for the opportunities Park Champions has provided me to connect with others who love state parks as much as I do.

Anything else about why the Park Champions program is important or why you love it that we didn’t touch on that you think I or our supporters should know?
If you haven’t already, be sure to invite a friend to your next workday. It’s the greatest feeling to be able to share the joy and accomplishment you feel after a hard day’s work in your favorite state park.

This June, we’re celebrating the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers from across California that tirelessly donate their time and work to improve the quality, safety and preservation of our state parks with Park Champions Appreciation Month! Follow the celebration on social media with the hashtag #ParkChampions and read more blog posts here.

Park Champions: my next adventure

Guest blog post from Core Leader John Salcido

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John and his dog in downtown Half Moon Bay, CA.

So what to do next? This was the big question I faced after retiring in June 2010. What new opportunity could I find to do some good for others or the environment, get me outdoors after sitting at a desk for 25 years, and allow me to meet new people?

A retiree friend suggested that I take a year to decide, then take another. “Your next adventure will find you, eventually,” she advised.

Two years later, in 2012, our state parks had hit a low point. Many were closing in the San Francisco Bay Area due to budget cuts, and I was determined to do something to help.

It was then that I discovered California State Parks volunteer program, Park Champions. Attending my first work day at Half Moon Bay State Beach was exhilarating. What better way to check off all of my “next adventure” boxes than doing this! Becoming a Park Champions Core Leader was inevitable.

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John explaining the workday project to volunteers at Half Moon Bay State Beach.

The past five years volunteering at state parks has been a gift. I’ve met so many wonderful people – lots of whom are now great friends! It’s very uplifting to work with passionate volunteers who share a strong desire to help the environment. It counters the cynical narrative promoted today that people care only about themselves.

During my Park Champions journey, I’ve encountered several true superheroes! Young volunteer Jay De who couldn’t wait to turn twelve to attend his first event. Incredible long-time volunteers whose passion and friendly banter make newcomers feel welcome. Awesome parents who bring their kids to improve the environment as a family. Intrepid long-distance volunteers who drive over 100 miles each way to help at the beach. And amazing park staff who pass up higher paying jobs to protect and preserve our beautiful state parks.

Thank you all – my fellow volunteer Core Leader peeps, park staff and Park Champions volunteers throughout the state – for your dedication and service!

This June, we’re celebrating the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers from across California that tirelessly donate their time and work to improve the quality, safety and preservation of our state parks with Park Champions Appreciation Month! Follow the celebration on social media with the hashtag #ParkChampions and read more blog posts here.