Enhancing Quality of Life through Volunteering

by Kelly Tolbert, Recreation Services Coordinator, Prescott Parks and Recreation Pioneer

At the City of Prescott Recreation Services Department, one of our missions is to provide enhanced quality of life for our visitors and residents. We do this a variety of ways, but one that stands out is our relationship with volunteers. Overall, the department has approximately 250 volunteers on board for different tasks.

Scientific studies show that volunteering enhances mental as well as physical health. Some perceived benefits include feeling a sense of purpose; belonging to a community of like-minded individuals; learning new skills; increasing self-confidence; and combating depression, stress and anxiety.

Volunteering is also a way to gain career experience or enhance social interaction for retirees. Everyone benefits from volunteers, including the host agency, if the volunteer relationship is found to be mutually beneficial and is overall a good fit.

One of the volunteer programs is known as the Over the Hill Gang (OHG), a work group of men and women who typically work twice a week for about three hours each workday. This group functions as both a trail construction and maintenance team.

If you have used any of the recreation-based trails in the Prescott area, the Over the Hill Gang has likely improved the condition of them in some form. Tasks sometimes range from the usual hand crew type grooming, cattle fence replacing, even pedestrian bridge construction. Just this past year, the OHG completed 6.4 miles in the Storm Ranch area and just under a mile on the ECOSA easement in the Granite Dells, as well as maintaining the existing 100+ miles of City trails.

To report an issue with any area trails or to sign up as a volunteer please visit: prescotttrails.com.

Another volunteer opportunity with Recreation Services is the Special Needs Activity Program (SNAP). This program serves adults with special needs and generally offers one dance and one bingo/activity night per month. The program is open to caregivers, participants, and of course volunteers to help by serving food, assisting with crafts or games or general duties associated with events. Monthly dances are themed; for example the prom usually takes place in May and other months feature a luau, Wild West, ‘50s sock hop, hippie dance, etc. A live DJ spins the tunes and everyone is invited to dance their socks off! This is truly an evening of fun. For more information on the SNAP program please visit: prescott-az.gov/recreation-events/programs-special-events/programs/special-needs.

If you are a dog enthusiast, then you have likely visited the Willow Creek Dog Park. This is one of our most visited parks, averaging approximately 450 daily people visits, not including dogs! Luckily, Recreation Services has a dedicated group of volunteers that meets every Monday morning from approximately 8 to 10 a.m. to perform necessary maintenance. These tasks include applying enzyme to well-used areas, raking the rock areas, replacing dog waste bags in the stations located within the park, hosing off the sitting/cement areas, and anything else that needs attention. On the first Monday of the month, City staff joins the volunteers for bigger projects and no dogs are allowed these times. Otherwise, the park is only open to volunteers and their dogs during maintenance. For more information please visit: prescott-az.gov/recreation-area/willow-creek-park-dog-park.

Finally, another volunteer program offered by the Recreation Services Department is the Park Ranger Program. These Rangers generally patrol our parks, lakes, trails and open space in pairs. They’re on alert for any major maintenance issues such as broken water lines, graffiti and potential safety issues, while acting as ambassadors for the department.

They distribute trail maps, parking pass information, direct visitors to points of interest and essentially handle anything that comes their way. Right now, the program is at capacity, but we always accept applications and inquiries. For more information please visit: prescott-az.gov/recreation-events/recreation-areas/volunteer/volunteer-park-rangers.