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Volunteer for Park Service, State Parks, etc.
Old 05-01-2014, 09:25 AM   #1
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Volunteer for Park Service, State Parks, etc.

On a truly remote (accessible by boat) National Park, met a retired, volunteer couple. Same trip, met a retired gentleman at a National Park in a less remote location. He said that due to the remoteness, many times the Park Service will let you tow your RV to a full service pad or provide primitive housing. He let me know about www.volunteer.gov which lists many of these types of volunteer jobs. Many of which require some sort of overnight extended stay.

I have researched the tax aspects to death, including Pub 526. It appears that each case is a "facts and circumstances" kind of thing. If the work is substantial and the pleasure/vacation is insignificant, it may be deductible.

There are some great "jobs" listed. A resort in Colorado at 7,400 feet. A lighthouse keeper. Some bad jobs. Cleaning 16 toilet facilities (probably 32 toilets) every day in a Park.

Looked up previous threads here. Not too much recently. First question: Anyone done this?

Second question: Many jobs appear to require certifications, such as Forest Service Chainsaw Certification. I have used a chainsaw for many years, but can't do a darn thing without that certification and as far as I can tell, FS rarely gives the class. Other groups, such as ATC, rarely do it, too. In volunteering, have you had success with substituting real life experience for unobtainable certifications? For example, I have been dealing with computers, networks, etc for many moons but do not have MS Certification.
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Old 05-15-2014, 02:29 AM   #2
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Certification is taking a class, then passing a test of performing the task to their specs. If the Forest Service wants you to get the certification they will tell you about the next class date at some distant location. If not, they will forget to mention it to you.

There is so much liability in chainsaw use, that they are afraid to have a retiree using that saw. You would be safer than a less mature, age 20 young man, but they see you as being unfit to handle the saw like their firefighters. Note that you will not be on a fire line with a saw, but that is how they think.

At the local FS, as a volunteer, I picked up litter and cleaned campground toilets for a few years before I got interested in remote trail maintenance. The toilet cleaning is just sweeping then spraying water, using a cleanser on a brush. They have the right tools for the job.

Psychologists have found that you can work a bad job as a volunteer because you have control, or if you get paid well enough, but no one keeps the bad job at low pay because you can go elsewhere for a better job at the same pay.
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Old 05-15-2014, 08:41 PM   #3
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I spent my career working on a National Forest (as a wildlife biologist), and had many different volunteers working for me over the years, doing various things. Our Forest offers the chain saw certification class at least annually, to volunteers, seasonal employees, and others that need it. I wouldn't worry about not being able to get the certification; if you need it for your job, they will generally find a way for you to take the class.

With regard to volunteering in general (for the Forest Service or Park Service), there is a lot of variation across the country in terms of both jobs, and how you are treated by the host agency (and especially who directly supervises you). I treated my volunteers very well, and did all I could to help them out with various things (like locating housing for them or providing a free spot to set up an RV, etc.). I also tried to give them assignments that were interesting and meaningful. Unfortunately, not all supervisors do the same things for their volunteers. You can get some idea about that, though, by asking a lot of questions before you sign up for a particular job and location, and seeing what kind of responses you get.

A lot of volunteer jobs can be somewhat routine and mundane (checking and cleaning campsites, emptying trash, etc), but you shouldn't have to do that kind of work all the time. My volunteers worked on various things, such as wildlife projects, fisheries projects, wilderness trail work, and more. For a lot of those types of jobs, the volunteers work along side agency employees, handling various tasks that make the job go more smoothly.

I wouldn't discourage anyone from trying a volunteer assignment with the Forest Service or Park Service. I had one retired couple volunteer for me for about 10 years, and they loved the work. Others came and went more frequently, as their life circumstances changed, etc.. I enjoyed working with all of them.
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Old 05-15-2014, 09:36 PM   #4
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I volunteer to maintain a section of the AT. I'm not allowed to use a chainsaw unless I take the certification, which has been offered nearby a time or two in the last year or two. Very doubtful they or the park service would make exceptions on that.

Basically I go over my 1+ mile section with a weed-whacker about 4 times a year, clear dead fall whenever I can (reporting downed trees so a sawyer can come clear them), trim back brush, and clear out water bars. Our club has work crews that come out once a month to do more major work like adding steps and water bars, and occasionally rerouting the trail as needed, with approval.

Maybe not what you are looking for since this is an ongoing commitment, as opposed to a one-time vacation-type thing.
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:45 AM   #5
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Volunteering at my local National Park, (Congaree), is on my list of things I want to do, too. I have been retired for about 5 months, and have not had the time though. I know most of the people out there and my hunt club borders the Park. It's good to be doing something good while in a good environment.
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Old 05-16-2014, 10:01 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
I volunteer to maintain a section of the AT. I'm not allowed to use a chainsaw unless I take the certification, which has been offered nearby a time or two in the last year or two. Very doubtful they or the park service would make exceptions on that.

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+1
Despite someone's experience, there's too much liability. I worked in the woods, I'm amazed I still have all my fingers.
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Old 05-16-2014, 11:54 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Redbugdave View Post
Volunteering at my local National Park, (Congaree), is on my list of things I want to do, too. I have been retired for about 5 months, and have not had the time though. I know most of the people out there and my hunt club borders the Park. It's good to be doing something good while in a good environment.
I, too, would like to volunteer for National Park but I am afraid I will be way too busy in my RE. My planned daily RE routine/schedule is just too long to volunteer for ajob. Perhaps, once the novelty of RE wears off, I can volunteer for a part time job.
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