Park Champions: my next adventure

Guest blog post from Core Leader John Salcido

John PCAM

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.

Park Champions Appreciation Month: Why I volunteer

Guest blog post from Core Leader Holly Brett

Holly Brett 1I started volunteering with the Park Champions volunteer program five years ago. My first workday was at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook – a newer state park I hadn’t even known existed despite it being smack in the middle of Los Angeles.

Why had it taken me so long to join a workday? I found it invigorating to dig into the soil and experience nature on a new level. This is something I was yearning for after working for years in an office environment. I felt invested in my community – creating a more beautiful park for all to enjoy. And thanks to the completely contagious passion of our fearless leader and native habitat enthusiast, Margaret Oakley Otto (Southern California field coordinator), restoration of natural habitats that are needed to support local ecosystems became a concern of mine as well.

Margaret inspired me to become more involved. I signed up to take native habitat and native plant classes. I also signed up to become a Core Leader so that I could help lead work days. Volunteering with Park Champions has been a completely gratifying experience. Not only do I feel accomplished after a few hours in my local, and not so local, state parks, I have met some wonderful people along the way. One particularly engaging eighth grader interested in improv made a lasting impression on me at a work day in Topanga State Park – improv? how very LA!

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I have made friends with some dynamic and diverse people who share the commitment to serve our parks. I am grateful that so many volunteers return month after month to invest their time, spirit and energy improving our parks so that the community at large can enjoy the wonderful California state park system.

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.