Over the summer I started volunteering with Riverfront North Parks, a stretch of parks along the Delaware river. I had been trying to find volunteer opportunities for a while but never found anything suitable. When I specifically looked on the PA parks website there were no results for Philadelphia. Then a Meetup group I joined - not stated to have anything to do with volunteering - ended up posting about Riverfront North and once I was there I was hooked.
I like going to parks but I always feel a bit awkward. I'm not really a sit and stare at trees kinda guy, so unless there's a lot of walking around to do or of course animals, I feel a bit pointless. Volunteering gave me the opportunity to go to the parks and do something, get a work out, and help the park all in one. So every week I spent a morning in one of the Riverfront North Parks.
One of the tasks as a parks volunteer was pruning trees, which I took a particular liking to, but I also immediately started looking at trees differently once I learned a bit about them. Walking down the city streets I can find problems with just about any tree. Most of them are very neglected. Other activities included things like pulling up invasive plants, maintenance work on walking paths, and of course picking up trash.
Now that its November, volunteering with Riverfront North has abruptly come to an end. I didn't know last week was the last official day. (And it was a really rough one! Pulling and digging up vines and roots on a slope. I was ridiculously sore the following day.) This week I woke up early for volunteering, texted the supervisor because nothing was on the website about where we were going that day, and got the response that it was over, which I was not emotionally prepared for at all.
About a month back, having seen my affinity for tree tending, my supervisor asked me to look into Philadelphia Tree Tenders. RFN even covered the cost of my attending classes. We planted trees, got a guide for tree-identification, got an invasive species bug-egg-scraper, and just learned a lot about trees. This past weekend was my last class and I am now certified as a Tree Tender, with a card and a t-shirt to prove it.
The Tree Tenders is a group run by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, though once you have a few people in an area, each group is basically self-run. They mostly focus on planting new street trees and taking care of young street trees. Over the next few weeks I'll be helping out with at least 3 tree plantings in and around my neighborhood.
After that I'm not sure what to expect, since most of what they've been talking about are these twice-yearly tree plantings. I'll get together with the local Tree Tenders group and see what's what, and I'll keep working with Riverfront if they have ways for me to help out over the fall and winter, but its getting to be the time of year where there isn't going to be much to do outside and I'll just be in my house with many layers of clothing and blankets.