Volunteers fulfill an important role in operating and maintaining public lands and are therefore vital for the healthy function of California State Parks (CSP). The recruitment of volunteers for roles that have been traditionally held by paid ranger staff has grown, largely in response to budgetary restrictions and an expanding acreage being managed by CSP. Many academic studies focus on the cost and benefits of training volunteers to serve in the fields of hospital care, social work, and municipal administration, yet few studies have investigated the impact of volunteers serving public lands. To better understand this workforce, I designed a cross-sectional study using surveys of 176 volunteers and 19 volunteer coordinators (VC) for CSP within the Santa Cruz District from August to October 2019. Survey questions focused on volunteer efforts on the protection of natural and cultural resources, park visitor services, and the overall operation and function of the park system. In my analysis of the survey responses, I identified responsibilities of volunteers and VCs, quantified the impact of their efforts, and evaluated the benefits and challenges associated with the Santa Cruz District volunteer program. My findings show that volunteers successfully help the district accomplish agency objectives by facilitating interpretive programs, providing public safety services, and performing trail maintenance. Three central themes emerged, revealing characteristics of sustainable volunteer programs: 1) Employing more than one VC per park unit and maintaining a low ratio of volunteers per VC will reduce volunteer attrition and provide the volunteer support needed to accomplish park specific goals and objectives; 2) Targeting and recruiting volunteers based on pertinent professional skills and experience maximizes volunteer productivity and reduces impact on agency resources; and 3) Maintaining experienced, long-term VCs and reducing staff attrition will benefit the park system by protecting institutional and bureaucratic knowledge, and achieving long-range park management priorities. By implementing these strategies, public lands agencies move towards cultivating well-structured, resilient, and industrious volunteer programs capable of fulfilling the needs of diverse park units while providing adequate support and appropriate expectations for VCs and volunteers.
|Advisor:||Sherman, Peter, Brooks, Meriel|
|Commitee:||Ormsby, Alison, Sutton, Stephanie, Sherman, Peter, Brooks, Meriel, Langmaid, Kim|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||MAI 81/10(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Environmental management, Sustainability|
|Keywords:||California State Parks, Parks management, Public lands, Santa Cruz, Volunteer management, Volunteers|
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