Be a Docent!

State Parks volunteer docent training starts soon. Pick a park and sign up to help make Santa Cruz area parks more welcoming, interesting and fun.

by Christian Yungert

Feb. 5, 2016—Calling all natural history buffs, citizen scientists and outdoor enthusiasts: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks is accepting applications for volunteer docents to be the faces and voices of our local state parks.

Being a docent is serious but fun business. Training programs specially designed for each park will equip you with an arsenal of local knowledge and fun facts before releasing you into the wild to add your own flair to the state parks experience.

Becoming a docent is a rewarding experience. Barbara Cooksey, a longtime volunteer docent who ultimately joined State Parks staff at Wilder Ranch, says, “Preserving nature and our cultural history has always fascinated me. Being outdoors and in the wilderness has always given me a sense of renewal.” She just might be onto something. Learn more about her experiences in this Q&A with Hilltromper and read her list of the many historical “firsts” that took place at Wilder.

Volunteer and training opportunities are available at several locations. Choose your favorite and get out there!

Wilder Ranch State Park

The lifeblood of this state park, volunteer docents are critical to maintaining the park’s popular cultural and history programs. Upon completing the interactive seven-week training program, you will be ready to lead school group tours, work on restoration projects, care for the animals and gardens, and even be an actor in living history demonstrations. If you have a penchant for history and cos-play, this is the state park for you. Training begins Feb. 6 and runs continually for seven weeks.
For applications, visit the Wilder Ranch Visitor Center or For more information, call 831-426-0505 or email

San Mateo Coast State Parks

Volunteer will have a choice of locations where they can employ their talents. The training program, beginning Feb. 9, will prepare you for a bevy of responsibilities, including leading whale-watching tours, conducting school-group tours, operating the visitor center and more. Lovers of the coastline are encouraged to apply for these opportunities.
For those interested in Montara, Half Moon Bay and Pescadero State Beaches, call 650-726-8804 or email
For Pigeon Point State Historic Park, call 650-879-2120 or email

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Do you feel at home in the understory of old-growth redwoods? Then you belong in California’s oldest state park. Training, scheduled for March, will teach you to “help the environment through education.”
Please contact the park at (831) 338-8883 for information and applications.

Rancho Del Oso

Are you the adventurous type? Looking for a volunteer experience with more edge? Become a Wilderness Patrol volunteer and traverse the scenic trails on foot or mountain bike. You will also have the chance to work at the ranger station along the incredible Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail. Training will begin in April.
If interested, contact Program Coordinator Jeremy Lin at (831) 427-2288 or email