Volunteers make a difference on Earth Day and every day

Did you know that last year alone volunteers contributed more than 147,000 hours to Metro Parks Tacoma? That’s equal to about 71 FTEs – full-time equivalents. Think of it as 71 years volunteers spent helping their district.
Seventy-one YEARS. And that’s without vacation.
Really, though, those 147,000 hours are spread among hundreds of volunteers doing all kinds of things to make their park district better.

Parks Appreciation Day is a great example. It’s an annual event that lets residents improve their local park system in one big event across Pierce County. Metro Parks will have eight official sites where you can chip in. I love Parks Appreciation Day and seeing the passion people have for the parks, which to me is also showing passion for their community. I try to get to each event in the morning and thank the people there. Last year, 800 people put in 2,400 hours for their Metro Parks. For all of Pierce County, the number was more than 2,000 people. This year, Parks Appreciation Day falls on Earth Day, April 22. Do you want to join in? It runs from 9 a.m. to noon.

Clearing brush and digging into the soil is only one way people chip in for their parks. Volunteers are found all over the district doing all sorts of things: Interpreting at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, helping with fun runs and youth sports, assisting at Meadow Park Golf Course and Tacoma Nature Center, and helping through the volunteer programs at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. Volunteers help out in conference rooms, too: Our four advisory councils logged several hundred hours in which volunteers shared their business, cultural, arts and other specialized expertise to make the district more effective.

Like any government agency, Metro Parks has a limited budget. We have excellent staff at Metro Parks, but like the rest of us they have limited time, and we can’t simply hire as many people as we’d like. That makes volunteers crucial.

What do they get in return? Volunteers get to spend time outdoors, stay active, care for plant and animal life, make memories, and grow as people. Some volunteer as a family. Some volunteer alone and make new friends. Some just enjoy using their time and talents to help their community. After all, you own the parks. Volunteers do what they do for many reasons.
One thing is certain: Without volunteers, Metro Parks would not be what it is today.

– Tim Reid, Metro Parks Board of Commissioners