Montana State Parks partnering with Americorps for the first time

The Montana State Parks Department is trying a first ever partnership with the Americorps Program. Almost two dozen Americorps members will be helping out in parks across the state.

Six Americorps members have been sworn in for the new State Parks project. Others will join in May. Program Coordinator Katie McKown said the members will have a wide range of responsibilities.

“Increase volunteer capacity, do some great commuity outreach as well as expand our volunteer as well as expand our interpretive and educational products across the state,” McKown said.

Sometimes members will be handing out surveys at parks or getting local communities more involved in volunteer options available for the parks.

“Helping out with day to day activities in visitor’s centers, to helping out with trailwork days and park cleanup days,” she said.

Americorps member Katie Lindsay just moved to Montana from Illinois to join the program. She said she’s excited about it.

“I was really interested in getting involved with some program that had some kind of environmental impact,” she said.

She said much of the program will be focused around these goals of spreading the word about the parks, community outreach, that sort of thing. But she said they will be working with their hands as well.

“So in that sense at different points they may be doing trail restoration or improving signage within the parks so there is definitely room for manual labor,” Lindsay said.

Initially, the Americorps program will be working in Lone Pine State Park, Wild Horse Island State Park, Pictograph Cave State park and the Lewis and Clark Caverns. A member will also be helping to open up the new Milltown State Park near Missoula.

This is a trial year for the program, but coordinator Katie McKown has high hopes for the future.

“We’re definitely hoping to just to continue to grow in our capacity to reach out to parks and help them in those different areas of focus that we mentioned,” McKown said.

Montana has 54 State Parks. The Americorps members will be adding to about 1,300 volunteers that help maintain the parks each year.

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