Sunday in the Park with Adrienne

Today’s guest blog post is authored by the multi-talented Adrienne Gembala, our 2013 Student Conservation Association summer intern in the Rec & Park Dept Volunteer Division.

Adrienne in the wild!

Adrienne in the wild!

I have been living in this little city since February and through this internship I have seen so many of the parks that I would assume even those who have lived here their whole lives have never been to.  For me the parks are essential to the human spirit.  In a city where there is ALWAYS something going on, it is nice to have a little spot of nature where I can relax with a book, go for a jog, people watch or play with some dogs.

I recently started an internship with San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s Volunteer Program.  My everyday varies from leading environmental education with the Youth Stewardship Program to native species management with the Natural Areas Program to doing outreach at exciting community events around the city.  There are some days where do I sit in front of a computer doing logistical work but it is all to support the beautiful parks of San Francisco.

Twin Peaks

One of the beautiful views from Twin Peaks which is home to the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly lives

If you have ever used a park or recreation center, maybe it is time to consider volunteering.  All parks and recreation centers have varied needs and you would never know it if you didn’t look into the options.

Stow Lake- Waterfall

Waterfall at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park

Habitat restoration volunteers work primarily in natural and open areas and may participate in a wide variety of activities, including removing invasive weeds, propagating native plants in the nursery, controlling erosion, planting and monitoring.

If that work sounds too dirty for you maybe you would like to help clean-up your neighborhood park? Park beautification volunteers participate in a wide variety of projects including: trash-pick up, painting, and trail maintenance.

Or maybe you have a special talent that you would like to share with youth, teens, adults or seniors at a local recreation center? Do you enjoy arts and crafts, theater, sports, dance, music or tutoring?  Contact your local recreation center or playground staff for a range of opportunities and find an available program to match your interests. Volunteers assist staff with arts and crafts, game booths and sports activities at special events such as Spring fairs, family fun days, holiday events and ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

Here are some frequently asked questions:

I want to volunteer. How do I get started?

  • Check out the Volunteer Calendar on the website.  Click on Support at the top of the page to see the calendar of volunteer events.

How do I sign up a group to volunteer?

  • Organize your event with our friendly volunteer staff. Email or call 415-831-6330 at least three weeks in advance for groups of 5 or more; 5 weeks for large groups; and 3 months for groups of 100 or more.

Do I need experience to volunteer?

  • No, the person leading your work day or group will provide you with everything you need to know. Feel free to ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable.

What should I bring to my volunteer day?

  • For most volunteer events we suggest that you bring the following:
    -Old clothes—inevitably you will be getting dirty
    -Layers of clothes—long pants and long sleeved shirt
    -Sturdy, closed-toed shoes with good tread, work boots preferred
    -Raingear and/or sun block and sun hat
    -Water or additional snacks for special dietary needs
    -Gloves, if you have a favorite pair, otherwise we will supply

What if it is raining, does the program get canceled?

  • Our programs go on rain or shine. If a program is canceled, it will be announced on our Events Calendar. If you would like to cancel a group due to weather, please contact the staff member you have scheduled the event with.

How do I get proof that I’ve volunteered?

  • Your project leader can sign a volunteer hours form for your school or court-ordered service at the project site. Be sure to bring any paperwork you need signed.

We are the lucky beneficiaries of the investment and visionary leadership of the previous generations who built one of the world’s best park systems. We are the stewards of our parks for the future generations.  So get out there and volunteer!

-Adrienne Gembala, Student Conservation Association Intern, Summer 2013

[This blog entry is a re-posting of content in]