When I arrived in Banff National Park I was completely lost for words. I had made the move from the busy city of London, England, to a tranquil area surrounded by mountains, valleys, glaciers, forests, rivers and lakes.
After a few months of being immersed in the park, exploring the different areas, hiking the trails and taking in the views, I really wanted to connect with the park on a deeper level and what better way to do that then to get involved with volunteering.
I carried out some research and found that Parks Canada had a strong volunteer program in place and it wasn’t long after that I was signed up and ready to give back to this incredible national park I now called home.
Since becoming a Parks Canada volunteer I have had the opportunity to be involved in a variety of stewardship activities including:
- Trail reporting – picking a hike, interacting with visitors and reporting on the conditions of the trail.
- Becoming a ‘Hike Leader Assistant’ on the Burgess Shale hikes in Yoho and Kootenay national parks.
- Fence check – being assigned a location along the Trans Canada highway to check the Wildlife fence whilst repairing any small damages and reporting any bigger ones.
- Removal of invasive plant species – identifying invasive plant species and removing them from the park.
- Engaging in special events – ‘Earth Day’ activities, Lake Minnewanka’s underwater / shoreline clean up and many more.
- Mass litter picks.
This year I am hoping to get more out of the program by coordinating and leading some of the activities that happen in and around town. The activities (as mentioned above) will help conserve biodiversity and enhance Parks Canada staff’s core work in protection, education and visitor experience.
Since becoming a volunteer I have obtained a new set of skills whilst gaining a deeper connection with the park. Volunteering has provided the opportunity to interact with Parks Canada staff – strengthening my own knowledge about the area and the parks ecosystem. Learning new information has enabled me to interact with visitors on a higher level and have a strong sense of environmental stewardship. It’s such a good feeling to know I help look after this beautiful area which I am so grateful to live and play in, so that visitors from all over the world can enjoy the serenity of Banff National Park.
If having fun, gaining experience, learning and giving back to this iconic mountain ecosystem is something that appeals to you then please come and get involved. The activities are free of charge and open to all members of the public including; park visitors, locals and pre-existing volunteers. They will begin to take place in June and will run weekly up until October. Most activities will take place close to Banff town site and carpooling will be facilitated when possible. There are no weekly or monthly commitments but 24 hours sign-up notice is mandatory.
Please drop by the volunteer program office just inside the main door of the visitor center on Banff Avenue for more information, or apply to volunteer through this Parks Canada website. I hope to see you out there!