Love the Land? Try a Volunteer Vacation
By Michele S. Byers
If your idea of summer paradise is lounging on a beach, soaking up sun and snoozing in the ocean breezes, stop reading now!
But if you think any vacation that involves sitting around (or lying prone) in the sand is just plain B-O-R-I-N-G, read on.
Physically active folks looking for a fun and rewarding outdoor vacation may want to consider a volunteer conservation trip. These unique vacations combine camping in national or state parks with service projects to help beautify the land and make the parks more safe and accessible.
This summer there are more volunteer vacation offerings than ever before from building trails in the Grand Canyon to clearing debris washed up on remote Alaskan beaches following the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Volunteer conservation trips need muscle more than knowledge: Things like trail work, clearing fallen trees and branches, picking up litter and debris, removing invasive plants, maintaining gardens and sprucing up fences and buildings.
But volunteers often get access to parts of parks and forests not open to the public. And they almost always have free time to enjoy the beautiful places they’re helping.
One of the biggest volunteer vacation programs is Sierra Club National Outings, which donates about 27,000 volunteer work-hours per year to state and federal land agencies. If the agencies had to pay for the same labor, it would cost over $400,000.
Sierra Club’s “adventures with a cause” include everything from research projects at whale calving grounds in Maui to archaeological site restoration in New Mexico.
The American Hiking Society’s program matches volunteers with trail improvement projects all over the country. The society has a great website that allows prospective volunteers to search trips by various criteria, including job difficulty and accommodation options, like tents, cabins or lodges.
The American Conservation Experience recently opened up trips previously reserved for AmeriCorps and long-term volunteers. These trips include volunteer vacations to Catalina Island off the coast of California, the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park.
Volunteers must pay for the trips, but the fees are inexpensive and include accommodations and food. Travel is extra.
According to organizers, among the rewards reaped by volunteer vacationers are satisfaction with a job well done and a sense of “ownership” of the areas where they’ve worked. The Sierra Club reports that volunteers often return to the same park year after year, either to continue a favorite project or see how their work is holding up.
“Volunteers should expect a positive, fulfilling experience,” said Tom Wilson, director of the Volunteer Vacations program at American Conservation Experience. “It can also be challenging, but overcoming these challenges leads to a sense of achievement.”
If the thought of adventure, a desire to help a good cause and meeting like-minded people appeals to you, try a volunteer vacation.
To learn about Sierra Club trips, go to content.sierraclub.org/outings/national/volunteer-vacations. To check out the American Hiking Society’s offerings, visit www.americanhiking.org/ volunteer-vacations. And for the American Conservation Experience, go to www.conservationvacations.org.
And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
Summer Fun Means Following a Few Simple Rules
By Thomas A. Arnone
It’s summertime and the living is easy, but to enjoy the fun, be sure to follow the most important summer safety tips so you and your family can make the most of the carefree moments while keeping everyone happy all season long.
Before you even leave your house, no matter what the destination, make sure you are prepared for a day outside in the sun. Lather everyone up with sunscreen and make sure it is designed to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Wear sunglasses and a hat to offer further protection from the sun’s damaging rays and be sure to keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other drinks.
If you are just hanging out in your yard, pay attention to fire safety.
Believe it or not, the National Fire Protection Association recently reported that fire departments in the U.S. responded annually to 7,700 home fires involving grills and barbecues. Eighty-one percent of these fires involved gas grills, which makes gas-grill maintenance a high summertime safety priority. In order to avoid gas-grill issues, check your grill’s gas line for leaks and breaks. Also, always practice the safe handling techniques outlined in your grill’s instruction manual, whether it’s charcoal or gas.
Along with fire safety, we should also be concerned about pool safety. First and foremost, make sure that all poolside fencing is in good repair and gates are kept locked at all times in order to keep very young children from accessing the area without a supervising adult present. Most children who drown are between the ages of 1 and 4 and most incidents occur in residential swimming pools.
Lastly, beach safety is first and foremost for those packing their cars and headed for summertime fun at the Jersey Shore. The United States Life Saving Association (USLA) offers 10 safety tips:
1. Learn to swim.
2. Swim near a lifeguard
3. Swim with a buddy.
4. Check with the lifeguards who can advise you about possible hazards.
5. Use sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
6. Obey posted signs and flags.
7. Keep the beach and water clean.
8. Learn rip current safety.
9. Enter water feet first.
10. Wear a life jacket.
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders hopes that all of our residents along with all those visiting during the peak tourism season have a very safe and happy summer.
Let’s take all the steps necessary and be careful and diligent, so that we can all keep safe and make certain that summer fun remains fun.
Thomas A. Arnone is freeholder director of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Poll Finds Travelers Confident About Jersey Shore
By AAA Clubs of New Jersey
The AAA Clubs of New Jersey recently polled potential Jersey Shore visitors in and around the region to determine if their summer travel plans had changed due to the devastation of Super Storm Sandy.
Overall the survey found that traditional Shore travelers will return this year with 79 percent saying that Sandy had not altered their summer travel plans.
An overwhelming majority (71 percent) of respondents believe that the Jersey Shore will be open for summer travelers with an even greater majority (75 percent) believing that the ocean and bay water will be safe for swimming and boating.
“Shore residents and businesses should be pleased to hear that despite the challenges Sandy presented, visitors are determined to get back to the Jersey Shore,” said Cathleen Lewis, spokesperson for AAA New Jersey Automobile Club. “Travelers are confident that our businesses and our waters will be ready for them this summer.”
Half of the New Jersey residents polled (50 percent) are making an effort to visit Shore towns impacted by Sandy to increase tourism and support local businesses with the majority (82 percent) believing that the money they spend at the Shore will directly help small businesses to rebuild.
Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents consider themselves to be regular shore visitors, with 69 percent of those planning to spend the same amount or more time at the Shore this summer although their usual travel patterns may have changed.
Long-term stays have decreased, however, more beach-goers are planning on taking at least one day trip. Of those day-trippers, 20 percent plan more than six trips and 28 percent plan to take between one and three trips.
While the survey found slight shifts in destination plans many of those surveyed were still undecided as to which Shore towns to visit this year. For those who had to alter their traditional travel location the most popular response (16 percent) was to visit another New Jersey Shore location rather than go out of state.
“The loyalty that New Jerseyans have to their beaches is obvious and the survey reaffirms that people will be making a concentrated effort to support their local communities and Restore the Shore,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “While Sandy may have altered the landscape of some Shore communities, she did not alter the fierce pride and determination of its dedicated visitors.”
Two River Moment
Fair Haven has been a town where bikes and kids have always gone together. In this 1963 photo, boys proudly show off how they have decorated their bikes in their patriotic best.