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How to Volunteer for the Parks and Recreation Department


While local parks and recreation departments do have full-time employees, many also rely on volunteers to operate.
While local parks and recreation departments do have full-time employees, many also rely on volunteers to operate.
John Lund/Sam Diephuis/Getty Images

In cities across the country, local parks and recreation departments maintain playgrounds, swimming pools, golf courses, recreation centers, botanic gardens, museums and tennis courts. They run youth camps, after-school programs and senior centers, and offer classes in activities like yoga, karate and arts and crafts. With so much going on, it's obvious that these departments can use your help.

In New York City, for example, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation oversees 29,000 acres of land -- 14 percent of the city -- including Yankee Stadium, the Coney Island Boardwalk and Central Park. It runs five major stadiums, 1,000 playgrounds, 800 athletic fields, 550 tennis courts, 66 public pools, 17 nature centers and 13 golf courses. The department also maintains 14 miles of beach [source: New York City Department of Parks & Recreation]. While they have regular employees, their jurisdiction is large and help is welcome.

The San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department maintains 19,000 acres of municipal land, with 229 facilities including gymnasiums, baseball fields, skate parks, dog parks and playgrounds [source: San Antonio Department of Parks and Recreation].

In Los Angeles, the Department of Recreation and Parks opened the city's first playground in 1904. It now operates 180 recreation centers, 59 swimming pools, 29 senior centers, nine lakes and a dozen museums, including the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro and Travel Town in Griffith Park. The department also hosts picnics, shuffleboard tournaments, bridge games and dances [source: Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks].

Because your local parks and recreation department has such a wide reach, you can choose from any number of volunteer opportunities depending on your interest. Even if you aren't from a metropolitan area, your parks and recreation department probably has plenty of volunteer prospects, read on to learn what you can do.