Strengthening National Park Communities and Workforces

Rebecca WatsonNPF Blog
Two event participants plant small plants
Service corps event at Governors Island National Monument - NPF Photo

Our national parks depend upon the partnership and stewardship of a community of national park champions. Volunteer groups, service corps, non-profit organizations, and more dedicate their time, efforts, and resources to protect our national parks and the National Park Foundation (NPF), together with our partners, aims to grow the capacity of these groups, as well as inspire and diversify the next generation of outdoor leaders through our work supporting national parks' communities and workforces.

These programs highlight the power of teamwork and the collective dedication that is necessary to preserving our nation’s most treasured places. NPF's investment in these programs enables participants to have deep, meaningful experiences with and within parks, inspiring and motivating their life-long connection and stewardship of our national parks. Join us in exploring just some of the work NPF and our partners have supported to strengthen our collective efforts in the critical preservation, restoration, and protection projects in parks across the country.

Empowering Internships

a woman wearing shorts and a backpack stands at the edge of a cliff with a walking stick looking out onto a valley of mountains

Elizabeth Gerrits, Geoscientists-in-Parks Intern, at Glacier National Park

NPS Photo / Geoscientists-in-the-Parks

Inspiring and motivating the next generation of national park stewards, NPF’s support of internship placements within the National Park Service (NPS) ensures that as many young people as possible can build valuable professional experiences while also developing an affinity for our public lands. Supporting a wide range of internships across disciplines, NPF’s work in empowering internships enables interns to work closely with national park staff on priority projects to deliver and enhance the NPS mission.  

Interns are exposed to the many different aspects of park operations during their time, from maintenance to law enforcement to partnership development, providing a window into the many career opportunities available within the NPS family. Mosaics in Science internships focus on career exploration and building fundamental natural resource science skills for interns from communities under-represented in STEM career fields while Women in Parks interns provide parks with the resources to empower them to search out and share the untold stories of women. The Historically Black College and Universities Internship (HBCUI) program motivates participants to get involved in protecting our natural and cultural resources in their communities and enhances their understanding and appreciation of African American’s important contributions to our country. NPF supports these internship programs and more, including the internX program, in partnership with the Fund II Foundation.

Service Corps

A group of service corps members work on clearing a trail

Service corps crew members working in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

NPF Photo / Dawn Kish

Following in the footsteps of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a Great Depression-era federal work relief program, Service Corps crews work on proejcts that address parks’ critical needs, from invasive species removal to historical preservation and trail restoration. NPF has long supported service corps opportunities for young adults and veterans. The program provides participants on-the-job training, leadership skill development, a raised awareness about the myriad of public lands career paths available to them. During their terms, service corps members gain technical and leadership skills while forging bonds with their fellow crew members and developing a sense of belonging in these outdoor spaces.

In recent years, NPF and our partners have expanded our support of a diverse network of service corps crews, building on the impact of the crews that have contributed to the restoration and enhancement of our public lands. NPF supports single-identity crews, which help participants feel safe and comfortable as they explore parks and possible career paths within them. These include crews with participants who use American Sign Language and crews of women veterans, as well as LGBTQ+, Latinx, all-women identifying, and Native American crews. Since 2018, NPF has invested more than $11 million to support more than 130 service corps crews, helping bring together people of different ages, backgrounds, and abilities to accomplish critical maintenance projects in parks.

Cultural Landscape Apprenticeships

A Cultural Landscape Apprentice uses a chainsaw on a tree trunk

A Cultural Landscape Apprentice at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

NPS Photo / Justine Hanrahan

A collaboration between NPF’s Latino Heritage Fund, NPS, Mission Heritage Partners, and American YouthWork's Texas Conservation Corps, the Cultural Landscape Apprentices program matches Hispanic and Latino young adults with opportunities to learn about cultural landscape management at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Designed to prepare participants for careers in conservation, water management, and environmental planning, Cultural Landscape Apprentices work on hands-on projects alongside NPS employees and learn a variety of skills, including grounds preservation, maintenance, and landscape rehabilitation.  

The program is part of NPF’s ongoing efforts to expand programs supporting Hispanic and Latino history shared through national parks. Meet the 2020-2021 cohort and learn how they are gaining valuable skills while helping preserve San Antonio Missions National Historical Park’s natural and cultural resources so current and future generations can continue to explore the park’s complex history.

Strong Parks, Strong Communities

Close up on hands tying boot laces
NPF Photo / Dawn Kish

It takes a lot of partnership and collaboration to help protect and enhance our parks. Approximately 450 local philanthropic organizations across the country provide critical support to national parks and programs, and NPF, NPS, and the Friends Alliance are working together to bring park philanthropy to an elevated level. As part of NPF’s overall work in Community Partnerships, our Strong Parks, Strong Communities Initiative (SPSC) seeks to enhance local philanthropic organizations (park partners) by building the capacity of these organizations through peer-to-peer learning and establishing opportunities to take collective action.  

Through SPSC, NPF offers programs such as the Strategic Growth Initiative and the Friends Leadership Institute, which aim to strengthen both the individual and collective capacities of park partner organizations. NPF also provides capacity building grants that support specific projects from new technology and website redesigns to professional development and strategic planning. Affinity Groups, such as the Battlefield Affinity Group, National Park Learning Alliance, and Development Leaders’ Network, help bring together park partners with shared interests and focus to provide relevant resources, as well as create a space for partners to come together to share ideas and learn from each other. 

NPF’s support of national park communities and workforces is helping to make a bigger impact on our parks through innovative collaboration and partnerships. By growing the capacity of partners and inspiring and diversifying the next generation of outdoor leaders, these programs are helping build community and cultivate stewardship while also supporting the critical projects in national parks across the country, ensuring they thrive and continue to inspire wonder. Donate to the National Park Foundation today to help support programs and projects such as these – together we have a powerful impact on our parks. 

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