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Volunteering at the Preserve

As we wrap up another great year at Cosumnes River Preserve, we plan for another season of restoration projects and recreation programs. Our key to achieving what we do every year at the Preserve is the cooperative effort from our partners AND the dedication of our volunteers. Like most not-for-profit organizations, the Cosumnes River Preserve counts on people dedicating their free time to restore native wetland and riparian habitat surrounding the river. As we take on more projects, grow our recreation program, and continue to improve the natural habitat, we need even more help than ever.

What might a day look like for a volunteer? Well, there are many different hats volunteers can wear, if they’d like, but let’s look into a day as a Volunteer Naturalist…

The alarm rings and it’s your day to open the Visitor Center and staff the front desk. As you drive up along Franklin Boulevard, approaching the Boardwalk, you stop to unlock the parking lot gates and restrooms, and take a moment to soak in the rising sun shining just above the line of valley oaks. You continue on to the Visitor Center and unlock gates, restrooms, and begin the short walk through the blooming native plant garden along the path to the entrance. You’ve arrived and the visitors begin to flow into the parking lot, ready to enjoy a hike along the Wetlands Walk or River Walk trail.

After unlocking and turning on lights and exhibits, you take a seat and a deep breath, ready to share what you love about this beautiful place with the individuals and families that are ready to share in it with you.

The first few people walk into the Exhibit Room, a family with two young children. They, excitingly, walk briskly to the interactive table and begin to explore the animal bones, feathers, pelts, and galls. They grab an oak gall, run up to you, and eagerly ask you what it is. You can see the excitement and wonder in their eyes and instantly recognize that same feeling you felt when you saw a mysterious, natural element for the first time. 

Your co-volunteer for the day arrives and you decide to put on a Volunteer Vest and walk the Wetlands Walk trail, offering yourself as a person of assistance along the trail for anyone that needs it or simply just has a question. As you walk, you notice a few pieces of trash along the trail and bend down to pick them up, knowing that although this piece of trash is small, by picking it up you are a part of a greater effort to keep our natural spaces clean and wild. 

As you walk, you notice an individual looking closely at a plant to the side of the trail and watch them creep off the path and into the brush. You take this opportunity to share with them the code of ethics and encourage them to stay on the path. Little did they know, they were about to encroach on a large bush of poison oak! You let them know this and are relieved you were able to inform them before they were in the thick of it.

As you finish your walk at the front of the Visitor Center again, you walk inside to find ten plus people looking at the educational information on the walls, exploring the insect display, and asking your co-volunteer about the best place to spot wildlife.

Before you know it, it’s 1pm and afternoon-shift volunteers have arrived and are ready to take on the last half of the day at the Preserve.

Elizabeth and Mary, Volunteers. Photo courtesy of Maria Culhane

Though every day is not the same, and not all may look like this one, I hope it gives you a look into what you can experience as a volunteer at Cosumnes River Preserve. If you are interested in being a part of the team, you can click the red “Volunteer” tab at the top of the page and find out more about the various opportunities.