How Does It All Get Done? Volunteers!

Have you ever wondered how a staff of 129 can manage 100,000 acres of open space? The answer is volunteers! People who participate in volunteer work projects are integral to helping the department reach its goals.

The volunteer work project team aims to offer a variety of projects all over the county to better meet the goals of the department, while providing projects of interest to a diverse and varied public. Last year, 2,005 volunteers participated in 152 projects, contributing 6,476 hours of service. A majority of our projects are special requests from businesses or organizations. We have a partnership program in which companies and groups commit to completing one or two projects each year. We also offer at least two public projects each month from June-September.

Last year we were able to offer projects from all of the work groups within the department: Agriculture & Water, Buildings & Historic Preservation, Fairgrounds, Forestry, Grounds, Plant Ecology, Trails, Weeds, and Wildlife. A few volunteer projects:

  • Harvested field peas from an experimental plot that were then donated to Community Food Share
  • Removed 1,701 bags of trash as part of the clean-up effort at Rainbow Nursery
  • Collected and cleaned 307 pounds of native seed
  • Constructed the new Schoolhouse Loop at Heil Valley Ranch
  • Built prairie dog barriers
  • Cleared dead willows to encourage new growth
  • Removed cattail to enhance wetland habitat for leopard frogs

New & Annual Projects

Projects vary from year to year. For example, last year volunteers helped build a new trail at Heil Valley Ranch. The Schoolhouse Loop trail was designed for beginner mountain bikers and offers terrain that challenges them to develop riding skills. This year, we do not anticipate any new trails so there will be a shift to trail maintenance.

Winter is a challenging time to plan volunteer projects, as the weather is unpredictable. And try as we might, plants just are not going to produce seed for us to collect in the winter! However, there are a few activities perfectly suited to working indoors. All the seeds collected during the late summer need to be cleaned and made ready for planting. Seed cleaning projects are a fun time to talk and listen to music while staying warm inside. Cold days are also great time to build benches for our cultural history sites like Walker Ranch and the Agricultural Heritage Center. We plan to offer a few of these building days this spring, so keep your eyes open for that posting!

A few projects happen every year without fail. Weeds, as you know, are probably never going to be eradicated from Boulder County. But volunteers play an integral role in helping control the spread of these invaders. Oxeye daisy is an invasive weed that has started to take over some meadows in the sub-alpine areas of Boulder County—especially at Caribou Ranch. Legend has it that a wedding party traveling on the Switzerland Trail railroad spread these beautiful yet harmful weeds as part of a ceremony. Today, you can see the white flowers taking over meadows and out-competing native wildflowers such as bee balm and one-sided penstemon. These meadows are bisected by small waterways, which make herbicide spraying impossible. Last year, volunteers spent their mornings and evenings picking daisies to restore these meadows to their glory.

Giving Back to the Community

One of our most exciting projects this past year was gleaning field peas. Gleaning is harvesting unused produce from agricultural fields and then donating the produce to local food banks. In 2019, our agriculture division planted a few test plots to preview some non-GMO options for our local vegetable producers. Volunteers harvested the peas which we then transported to Community Food Share in Lafayette. We try to reach out to farmers who lease Parks & Open Space land for vegetable production every year to see if they have any unharvested produce. These projects are my favorites since we directly give back to the community.

With projects offered in all parts of the county catering to a variety of interests and ability levels, we hope to see you in 2020!

We post public projects on our website at BoulderCountyOpenSpace.org/volunteer under Wild Work One-Time Opportunities. Or email Amanda Hatfield at ahatfield@bouldercounty.org to be added to our monthly email listing of projects.