You've had your fun, now it's time to get your hands dirty. There's plenty of cleaning, pulling, gathering and patrolling that needs to be done, and our region's park systems are always seeking volunteers interested in donating their time. Here are ways to roll up your sleeves and help.
- Eradicate Invaders // It's strange to see people ripping up plants by their roots, but nonnative species can choke out the ones that actually belong in our parks. Cuyahoga Valley National Park's exotic plant management program welcomes volunteers who want to root out invaders such as the garlic mustard plant. Scheduled removal days run through October, but volunteers can pitch in any time. Call Bridget Ambrisco, director of volunteer programs, 330-657-2364, nps.gov/cuva.
- Patrol the Parks // The Geauga Park District's Trailgators commit to regularly hiking an assigned area within the park district. "They're our extra eyes and ears," says volunteer coordinator Holly Sauder. Gators keep trails clear, clean picnic areas and report fallen trees. Contact Sauder at 440-286-9516, ext. 1117, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Lake Metroparks, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Medina County Park District have similar programs.
- Keep Tabs on Nature // Lake Metroparks' citizen scientists learn how to collect data from different animal habitats under the guidance of a park system naturalist. "We have stewardship volunteers [who] actually go out and monitor bluebird boxes, bat boxes," says volunteer program manager Merle Walker. All volunteers must attend an orientation. The next ones are July 1 and Aug. 5. Contact Walker at 440-585-3418 or visit lakemetroparks.com/about/volunteer.