Get involved and become a ‘uniformed volunteer’ at Henry W. Coe Park
Volunteers help staff the Visitor Center and spend time maintaining trails
Published in the Aug. 5-18, 2015 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Staff Report
It takes volunteer power to keep open to the public Henry W. Coe State Park, the 87,000 acres of wilderness a few miles east of Morgan Hill. Local nature-loving people who would like to be involved promoting and protecting California’s second largest state park should consider applying to go through several days of training this fall to become uniformed volunteers.
“A lot of people who apply really have a desire to help out and make the park a better place,” said Manny Pitta, volunteer training coordinator with the Pine Ridge Association, the nonprofit group involved in keeping the state park open. “Getting out there and being a volunteer gives you a sense of making that contribution, getting that satisfaction in giving back. But there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s a sense of community and a sense of working together across the volunteer community.”
Online applications on the park’s website for the uniformed volunteer program must be submitted to Pitta by Sept. 6. All applicants need to have an interview chat with a park ranger and Pine Ridge Association members to learn what is required of volunteers, such as an expectation of a minimum of 50 hours a year of volunteer activity.
Volunteers must do two full days of training on Saturdays Sept. 12 and Sept. 19 at the park’s headquarters at the east end of Dunne Avenue. In these workshops, they will learn about Henry Coe’s geology, history, water resources and other aspects. They will also do a weekend camping trip exploration of the park Oct. 17 and 18 where they will go by vehicles into the deepest parts of the park, viewing some of the most rugged mountain terrain in the Diablo range. On Oct. 24, volunteers will go through a Coe-Ed Day where they will get specialized training in areas of interest about the park. Starting Nov. 14 and going to the end of the year, new volunteers will be expected to do a day training at the Visitors Center in order to understand how to communicate with the public and answer questions about the various aspects of the park.
The more than 100 volunteers who are involved with the park find different activities relating to their interests such as hiking and backpacking, equestrian, mountain biking, geocaching, fishing, camping, and other recreational opportunities. Volunteers also work throughout the year putting on special public events such as the popular Backcountry Weekend in spring, the Mother’s Day breakfast, Ranch Day at Hunting Hollow, the 5K/10 run at Hunting Hollow, school programs, interpretive programs such as wildflower walks and day hikes, and the Tarantula Fest in October.
“There are some volunteers who become very involved once they go through the training,” Pitta said. “They become part of the Henry Coe community and it’s a lot like getting together with a group of friends. And also, for some of us anyway, there’s a satisfaction that comes with working with the public.”
Because of limited funding from the state for rangers to patrol the park, the uniformed volunteer program is a necessity to keep Coe Park open to the public, he said. The program is managed as part of California’s Volunteers in Parks (VIP) program, and the Pine Ridge Association helps the rangers in the training of the volunteers. Volunteers help staff the Visitor Center and maintain trails to keep them in a condition that’s safe for visitors.
“For me anyway, I’m looking at my own experience and definitely there would be no one there to meet all the visitors without the uniformed volunteers,” Pitta said. “There would be nothing happening there. The Pine Ridge Association supports the program by funding it and encouraging volunteers to help out. The PRA provides the resources for the program.”